In 1973, Western music was banned in the People’s Republic of China. But in a remarkable breakthrough cultural exchange, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted a tour of closed-off China, becoming the first American orchestra to visit the communist nation. Jennifer Lin’s Beethoven in Beijing provides a fabulous photo-rich oral history of this boundary-breaking series of concerts the orchestra performed under famed conductor Eugene Ormandy.
Lin draws from interviews, personal diaries, and news accounts to give voice to the American and Chinese musicians, diplomats, journalists, and others who participated in and witnessed this historic event. Beethoven in Beijing is filled with glorious images as well as anecdotes ranging from amusing sidewalk Frisbee sessions and acupuncture treatments for sore musicians to a tense encounter involving Madame Mao dictating which symphony was to be played at a concert.
A companion volume to the film of the same name, Beethoven in Beijing shows how this 1973 tour came at the dawn of a resurgence of interest in classical music in China—now a vital source of revenue for touring orchestras.
Jennifer Lin is an award-winning journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker. She created and codirected the feature-length documentary Beethoven in Beijing, which premiered on PBS’s Great Performances in 2021. For 31 years, she worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer as a reporter, including posts as a foreign correspondent in China, a financial correspondent on Wall Street, and a national correspondent in Washington, DC. She is the author of Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family, and coauthor of Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running.
"Fans of classical music will enjoy reading about one of the most important cultural events of the 20th century, while students of history will appreciate this account of a pivotal moment in U.S.-China relations."—Library Journal
"Beethoven in Beijing captures the trepidation, intrigue, and euphoria of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s good-will trip to China in 1973.... It memorializes a time when music enabled two estranged cultures to break down barriers of misinformation and communicate with smiles of understanding."—Broad Street Review
“Beethoven in Beijing is, indeed, an ‘Ode to Joy.’ Jennifer Lin’s fine account of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 trip to Mao’s China reminds us that sometimes, even in diplomacy, culture matters both as a signal and a catalytic agent.”—Orville Schell, China writer and author of My Old Home: A Novel of Exile