China pays homage to Beethoven, who has a fan base in country

The German composer is a huge musical icon in China, seen as an unlikely hero in the country because of his life’s struggles and music.
A mural of Ludwig van Beethoven is seen at a pedestrian tunnel ahead of his 250th birth anniversary in Bonn, Germany.(Reuters file)
A mural of Ludwig van Beethoven is seen at a pedestrian tunnel ahead of his 250th birth anniversary in Bonn, Germany.(Reuters file)
Updated on Dec 16, 2020 06:57 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis , edited by Vinod Janardhanan

German composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No.5 in C Minor” was among the compositions chosen to be played at the prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing to mark China’s national day on October 1.

Performed by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s work was chosen among Chinese compositions as well as “commissioned works on battling the Covid-19 epidemic,” official media reported.

It’s not surprising that Beethoven’s work was chosen to be played at a national day function – he is possibly the best-loved western composer in China.

Possibly not known outside, but the German composer is a huge musical icon in China, seen as an unlikely hero in the country because of his life’s struggles and music.

It was Beethoven’s composition which was played when then secretary of state Henry Kissinger visited Beijing in 1973 even though the visit took place during the Cultural Revolution when western influences were all but banned in China.

As it turns out, many musicians and institutes across China are celebrating the composer’s 250th birth anniversary, which falls on December 16, with concerts, both offline and online.

“Over 100 years after Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 first hit the stage in China, the musical talent’s tour de force was played at the Beijing Zhongshan Park to mark the anniversary of his 250th birthday,” official news agency, Xinhua reported, adding that the performance lasted for 12 hours.

“…there is no parallel to the depth and breadth of Beethoven’s integration into the culture, politics and private passions of China,” wrote Cai Jindong, associate professor in Stanford University’s Centre for East Asian Studies in his book – “Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People’s Republic”. The book was co-authored by an expert on Chinese culture, and Cai’s wife, Sheila Melvin.

Hardly surprising then that a Beijing-based art initiative, Bukaopu planned a celebration of Beethoven’s music on Wednesday evening called “Concert in the Clouds: A Tribute to Beethoven”.

“A Mandarin poem rapped to a remixed R&B beat of Moonlight Sonata. A magician playing card tricks to the rhythm of Minuet in C Major. A Rubik’s Cube Guinness record holder playing the hardest level on the game Rhythm Master…to the electric guitar remix of the third movement of the Pathetique Sonata,” a China-focussed website, SupChina wrote in a report Monday.

The SupChina report pointed out that Beethoven reemerged in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

“Even during the 1989 (Tiananmen) protests, students blasted recordings of Ode to Joy in Tiananmen Square. Now, students in China study Beethoven’s story at school,” the article said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, November 29, 2021