In 1959, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was performed for the first time by an all-Chinese orchestra and sung in Mandarin. Courtesy of China National Symphony Orchecstra
Imagine you’re a teenager in Beijing in the 1960s and ’70s, during the Cultural Revolution. Everything that’s deemed Western and bourgeois is banned — so listening to a 78 rpm recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, powerfully transformative as it might be, is off limits.
Jindong Cai, now a conductor and professor at Stanford University, was a teenager during those repressive days. He and his wife, the writer Sheila Melvin, have written Beethoven in China, a book about the tumultuous relationship China has had with the composer and his music. Cai and Melvin spoke with NPR’s Robert Siegel about that relationship; hear the full conversation at the audio link above. Full story.