"Future of Western Classical Music is in China"

This year the Berlin Philharmonica launched its grand Asian tour in Beijing in the background of a rage for Western classical music in contemporary China, where in the metropolises a fondness for Beethoven is considered modern, as expression of aspirations for a modern lifstyle, when in the West itself, interest in this type of music is on the wane.

Professor Zhao Ping Guo, who discovered the Chinese prodigy Lang Lang explains the background of Western classical music in China:

Professor Zhao wants to correct the western misconception of a vast classical fever that has suddenly broken out in China. The country has a much longer tradition of absorbing western music. The foundation for such a reception was laid down as early as the 1930s. Beijing Conservatory was founded in 1950, he himself was one of the first piano students to attend. The best musicians were offered opportunities for advanced studies in Budapest and Moscow. The Russian school, he says, continues to have a strong influence on Chinese piano instruction. And the Cultural Revolution, in his view, did not destroy this foundation, but only interrupted it. He perceives a long trajectory of musical development in China. Highly gifted musicians like Lang Lang and Yundi Li and composer like Tan Dun have by no means simply fallen from the sky.

Zubin Mehta, currently in Chennai, puts the new found interest for Western classical music in perspective:

Because we (in India) have so much of our own (musical traditions) here. China and Japan don’t have it — not in music. They have literature and painting … very advanced, but not music. Therefore, they have espoused the [music of the] western cultures.

But what struck me was the following observation (in Die Zeit):

Parents, he informs us, have such high ambitions for their children, no one thinks of anything but a solo career. Collective music-making, chamber music, is given short shrift in China.

Western classical music is distinctive because of the large repertoire of musicians that work flawlessly in tandem- one would have presumed that the collectivist nature of the endeavour is what would have attracted the Chinese- Western classical music has for long expressed a higher organized form of society. But if the interest in solo music indeed happens to be the case, this current interest in Western classical music would soon transform into a rage for rock and pop as in the West.

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Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

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