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Beethoven in Beijing

A Film Recommendation

Beethoven in Beijing
Directed by Jennifer Lin and Sharon Mullally
USA 2020
83 minutes in duration

Available for free streaming on PBS until May 14, 2021.
Preview available on YouTube. Trailer available on Vimeo.

On Sunday night, April 16, PBS aired the documentary film Beethoven in Beijing on their Great Performances show. On the surface, this film tells the story of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s decades-long relationship with China, beginning with its first tour in 1973.

Below the surface, however, are other stories. There are individual stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the orchestra. We meet Lang Lang, China’s most famous concert pianist and various Chinese composers. We meet members of the orchestra who were on the original tour in 1973 and were still members on the orchestra’s last tour in 2019. There are stories of cultural exchange as young Chinese musicians seek to not only revive classical music in China but seek to influence it as well. There are stories that don’t make sense, such as Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, showing up at a concert given by the orchestra during a time when she was a leading figure in the banning of western music in China.

If you love China and love classical music, you will love this film. It will be available for free streaming on PBS until May 14, 2021.

For more background on the film, I recommend this Sinica Podcast episode with the producers.

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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