In a significant cultural milestone, the Philadelphia Orchestra commemorated its 50th anniversary of the first visit to China with a special concert on November 10 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. This event not only celebrated a long-standing friendship through music but also underscored the importance of cultural exchanges between China and the United States.
The concert, titled “50 Years of Friendship,” was a collaborative performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the China National Symphony Orchestra. It opened with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture of Candide, conducted by Tristan Rais-Sherman, assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The program also included the serene Chinese melody, Two Springs Reflect the Moon, resonating with both Chinese and American audiences.
The concert coincided with a letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Matias Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, expressing hopes for continued efforts in strengthening people-to-people ties through music. Tarnopolsky expressed gratitude for this honor, highlighting the mutual respect and shared values between the two countries.
This cultural exchange extends beyond the concert hall. On the same day, the American Ballet Theater performed the ballet Giselle at the NCPA, symbolizing the breadth of artistic collaboration between the two nations. These events took place just days ahead of a significant meeting between the heads of state of China and the US, underscoring the role of cultural diplomacy in bilateral relations.
Tarnopolsky, in an interview after the concert, spoke of the orchestra’s honor in receiving a letter from President Xi. He emphasized the orchestra’s role as a cultural envoy and its commitment to building connections with the people of China through music.
The orchestra’s ties with China date back to its historic 1973 tour, which played a crucial part in normalizing diplomatic relations between China and the US. Musicians like Davyd Booth have been part of this journey since the beginning, symbolizing the enduring nature of this cultural exchange.
Ryan Fleur, executive director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, highlighted the collaborative nature of the 50th-anniversary celebration, facilitated by long-term partners like The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The orchestra’s connection with China even predates the 1973 tour, with concerts in the 1940s supporting China’s efforts during World War II.
The concert and the exchanges that accompanied it reflect the shared history and cultural understanding between China and the US. Beyond music, musicians from both countries have engaged in meaningful dialogues, sharing instruments, techniques, and experiences. These interactions have enriched the musical landscape of both nations, bridging cultural gaps and fostering mutual appreciation.
As Chinese and American musicians continue to collaborate, they serve as ambassadors of cultural understanding, particularly among the youth. The acknowledgment from President Xi Jinping underscores the significance of these exchanges in enhancing cultural relations between China and the US, demonstrating the power of music as a universal language that transcends borders and unites people.