Rhapsody in Red: How Classical Music Became Chinese

Rhapsody in Red: How Classical Music Became Chinese

Rhapsody in Red: How Classical Music Became Chinese

Rhapsody in Red: How Classical Music Became Chinese

Synopsis

Western classical music has become as Chinese as Peking Opera, and it has woven its way into the hearts and lives of ordinary Chinese people. This lucidly written account traces the biographies of the bold visionaries who carried out this musical merger. Rhapsody in Red is a history of classical music in China that revolves around a common theme: how Western classical music entered China, and how it became Chinese. China's oldest orchestra was founded in 1879, two years before the Boston Symphony. Since then, classical music has woven its way into the lives of ordinary Chinese people. Millions of Chinese children take piano and violin lessons every week. Yet, despite the importance of classical music in China - and of Chinese classical musicians and composers to the world - next to nothing has been written on this fascinating subject. The authors capture the events with the voice of an insider and the perspective of a Westerner, presenting new information, original research and insights into atopic that has barely been broached elsewhere. "Every chapter is as exiting as it is revealing. The book is thoroughly researched, with superb bibliography. I am ecstatic; my students will be electrified." - Clive M. Marks, Chairman, The London College of Music, Trestee, Trinity College of Music and The London Philarmonic Orchestra

Excerpt

Three days after Christmas in the winter of 1918, a P & O steamer from Hong Kong sailed up the Huangpu River toward Shanghai. The most dangerous part of the journey lay behind — more than one P& O ship had been lost to a typhoon or wrecked on the rocks of the China Sea — but the sheer number of junks, tugs and barges that crowded the shallow Shanghai harbor required extra caution and concentration. Indeed, on this particular day, with heavy, wet snowflakes falling from the leaden sky, navigation was almost entirely dependent on sound. Only when each sharp burst of the foghorn had called forth a chorus of mournful whistles from the over-sized conch shells blown aboard the junks did the captain maneuver his ship onward. Despite his caution, a junk would every now and then loom up close, specter-like in the mist, its square brown sails billowing as the wide, heavy-lashed eyes painted on its bow almost appeared to blink.

The P & O’s cautious maneuvering into port must have seemed an eternity to its passengers, most of whom were no doubt straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of the Bund, Shanghai’s famous waterfront esplanade that was lined with such landmarks as the Shanghai Club, with its renowned Long Bar, and the flower-filled Public Gardens, entry to which was banned to all Chinese except those employed as servants of the city’s growing population of white residents. But for one passenger, a short, dark-eyed man named Mario Paci, these last hours of the journey were sheer agony.

A Florentine by birth and a musician by calling, Paci was traveling from his home in Batavia, capital of the Dutch East Indies, to Shanghai where he had been invited to give a series of piano recitals in the city’s Olympic Theater. For most of the three-day journey, he had been at the heart of shipboard social life, a lively . . .

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