The BSO Goes to China: The 1979 BSO China Tour

China-ExhibitThe BSO Goes to China:
The 1979 BSO China Tour

1979 BSO China Tour, March 12 – 20
In 1979, the BSO and Seiji Ozawa traveled to Shanghai and Beijing, becoming the first American orchestra to visit the People’s Republic of China following the normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China on January 1, 1979. The orchestra was invited “to serve as a model for the future growth of symphonic music in China” after years of Western music being banned during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). In addition to playing four concerts, BSO members taught master classes on music and performance and gave open rehearsals. This historic visit was arranged in cooperation with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.


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China-ReconstructsFeatured Documents
Click the links below to view the full documents.

Invitation to China, January 1979 (PDF)
Seiji Ozawa’s previous visit to China in 1977 and in June 1978 as a teacher stoked his fame and popularity. By the time he toured with the BSO, he was welcomed as a national hero.

China and the U.S.: Normalization and Beyond (PDF)
This publication was included in informational packets distributed to BSO members prior to the tour. It contains details of U.S.-China relations including information about the politics, economy, and culture of the People’s Republic of China.

1979 China Tour Program (PDF)
Concerts featured Chinese soloists Liu DeHai on pipa (akin to a lute) and Liu ShiKun, China’s most prominent pianist, who had been jailed for six years during the Cultural Revolution. Yang Bingsun, concertmaster of the Central Peking Philharmonic, was also jailed for nine years.

Score of the Symphonic Suite from “The White-Haired Girl” (PDF)
Adapted from the famous Chinese opera and ballet that was widely performed during the revolutionary period, this suite was performed by the BSO as an encore during the tour. BSO cellist Martin Hoherman played the banhu solo with only minimal practice on the bowed instrument that closely resembles the Chinese erhu. Courtesy of Seiji Ozawa.

China Reconstructs, Vol. 28 No. 7 | July 1979 (PDF) 
A publication of the China Welfare Institute in Beijing featuring an article about the BSO Tour.

Musicians are Movers and Shakers (PDF)
Lake City Reporter | April 27, 1979

Sweet Harmonies in China (PDF)
Life Magazine | May 1979

Orchestrating the New Diplomacy (PDF)
Newsday | March 5, 1979

Featured Photographs
Click each thumbnail to view the full photograph.

Seiji Ozawa conducts the BSO in the Beijing Capital Stadium, March 19, 1979
The Central Peking Philharmonic joined the BSO during its final concert in China. BSO concertmaster Joseph Silverstein performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic, and pipa player Liu Denhai performed Wu Tsu-Chiang’s Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra with the BSO. The orchestras combined for the finale to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Photograph by Story Lichfield
BSO flutist Fenwick Smith shares flutes at the Shanghai Conservatory, March 15, 1979.

Photograph by Story Lichfield
BSO principal oboe Ralph Gomberg discusses his system for making and using reeds with Chinese musicians at the Shanghai Conservatory, March 15, 1979.

Photograph by Story Lichfield
Tour of the Great Wall with a Chinese musician, Ronald Feldman (cello), and Lawrence Wolfe (double bass).

Photograph by Story Lichfield
BSO harpist Ann Hobson Pilot confers with students during a master class at the Shanghai Conservatory, March 15, 1979.

Photograph by Story Lichfield
BSO Concertmaster and Assistant Conductor Joseph Silverstein conducts a master class with Chinese musicians in Beijing, March 17, 1979.

Photograph by Story Lichfield
CBS reporter Ed Bradley interviews Seiji Ozawa
CBS featured an hour-long documentary on the BSO’s tour in their program “CBS Reports.” Reviews such as the one mounted below praised the feature as being both informative and uplifting.

Photograph by Story Lichfield