Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ludwig van Beethoven, capitalist roader

Listen to This, an anthology of pieces by New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, has a chapter on classical music in China that includes these sentences on what transpired during the height of Maoism when Zhou Enlai suggested that China's national orchestra play something by Beethoven for a visit by Henry Kissenger. "Jiang Qing [e.g., Madame Mao] and her comrades proceeded to review Beethoven's symphonies for ideological errors. The Eroica was rejected because of its association with the imperialist figure of Napoleon; the Fifth fell short because it was said to be fatalistic. The Sixth Symphony, with its wholesome evocations of birds and babbling brooks, passed muster."

My hardcover copy of Listen to This, by the way, is a souvenir of the Borders book chain. In the final days of the company's collapse, my wife and I walked into a Borders in Pennsylvania, where the stock was being sold off at everything-must-go prices. In fact, most of the books already were gone, but I alertly snagged the Ross.

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