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Beijing orchestra pays tribute to Beethoven

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-04 07:30

Conductor Li Biao (center) and the Beijing Symphony Orchestra perform at the Forbidden City Concert Hall on July 31. [Photo provided to China Daily]

With four concerts over Sept 2-20, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to mark the 250th birth anniversary of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

With programs, including Beethoven's Symphony No 7 in A major Op 92, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Li Biao, performed on Wednesday at the concert hall of the National Center for the Performing Arts in Taihu, Tongzhou district, Beijing.

On Sunday, the orchestra will move to the Forbidden City Concert Hall with a concert featuring Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat Op 73 Emperor and Symphony No 5 in C minor Op 67, which is also often known as The Destiny.

On Sept 12, Li will lead the orchestra to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 2 in B Flat Major Op 19 and the composer's Symphony No 2 in D major Op 36.

Conductor Tan Lihua will take the baton and lead the orchestra to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor Op 37 and his Symphony No 3 in E flat Major Op 55, at the concert hall of the National Center for the Performing Arts on Sept 20.

Pianists, including Sheng Yuan and Xue Yingjia, will join in the concerts.

According to Li, who has had a successful career as a conductor and percussion soloist and is the chief conductor of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, the four Beethoven-themed concerts are part of Beijing Symphony Orchestra's 2020-2021 season.

"We planned to give 25 concerts during the 2020-2021 season, including the opening concert, which was supposed to have the four principal musicians from the Berliner Philharmoniker perform with us on Feb 25 early this year," says Li during the news conference held at the Forbidden City Concert Hall on Tuesday in Beijing. "However, the coronavirus pandemic forced us to cancel 80 percent of our concerts during the 2020-2021 season, which was disappointing."

"The four Beethoven-themed concerts are our major goal in 2020 since orchestras around the world celebrate the great composer's birthday this year," Li adds."This celebration of his music means a lot to everyone, especially when all the people around the world are struggling with the pandemic. It encapsulates the power of music to provoke thought, uplift the human spirit and provide a platform for shared experience."

According to Li, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra plans to play all nine symphonies Beethoven composed.

On Aug 10, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said theaters could limit attendance at each performance to 50 percent of capacity, with audience members not allowed to sit next to one another.

Besides live concerts, audiences will also enjoy the four concerts through online streaming, says Meng Haidong, director of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1977.

"The pandemic has spawned a very special kind of creativity for symphony orchestras. Without live performances, we started to connect with our audiences through online events, from performances to workshops. It was very challenging in terms of managing technology and programming the contents when we first started to try online events," says Meng, adding that the Beijing Symphony Orchestra was among the first Chinese symphony orchestras to engage audiences through online programs since early February.

For example, 12 musicians from the orchestra played English composer Edward Elgar's piece, Salut d'Amour, under the baton of Li from their homes, and the joint recording was released online on Feb 5.

The orchestra performed in front of empty seats at the Forbidden Concert Hall on July 17 along with musicians, including traditional Chinese musical instrumentalist sheng player Wu Tong and pipa player Zhao Cong, which attracted about 15 million views online.

On July 31, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra gave the first live concert at the Forbidden Concert Hall since the novel coronavirus outbreak in front of 425 audience members-one-third of the venue's full capacity.

"When we met the audience at the concert halls, we felt touched. Though the situation of the pandemic is still ongoing, we want to present live music to the audience as much as possible," says Li.

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