Ormandy in China: The Historic 1973 Tour
Ormandy in China
The Visit to the Central Philharmonic Society

On the day after their first concert, the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra were bused to the Central Philharmonic Society in Beijing. The host for their visit was Li Delun, the conductor of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra.

The open rehearsal of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra began with Li Delun conducting a performance of Moon Reflected in Two Fountains, a contemporary Chinese work based on music by the blind folk musician Ah Bing. Li, however, was most interested in the Philadelphians hearing his orchestra perform Beethoven's Symphony no. 5. Ever since the previous March, when the London Philharmonic visited China, Li had been upset over a remark in the British press suggesting that the Central Philharmonic could play Chinese music well enough but had no idea how to perform Western music.

According to New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg, Li conducted the first movement of the symphony with immense vigor, but also with a triplet in the opening three notes, losing the two-four meter. "At the end of the first movement, Li handed the baton over to Ormandy, who conducted the second movement. Louis Hood, director of public relations for the orchestra, wrote that Ormandy obviously enjoyed the experience immensely as he smiled, cajoled, or forcefully urged the Chinese musicians. Lacking a common language with his orchestra at the moment, Mr. Ormandy sang phrases, mouthed bravos at certain points and brought out the best in the music and the musicians." In the New York Times, Schonberg wrote, By giving the players plenty of air space to punctuate phrasing, Ormandy had them playing almost like a major ensemble."

Eugene Ormandy conducting the Central Philharmonic Orchestra
Beijing, 15 September 1973
Gift exchange

Following the open rehearsal by the Central Philharmonic Orchestra, the two groups exchanged gifts. Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra presented their Chinese counterparts with a trumpet, a clarinet, a flute, drum heads, and triangles. They also gave them hundreds of recordings and a large stack of scores of works by contemporary American composers donated by the Theodore Presser Company. Smaller individual gifts included mouthpieces, reeds, and extra strings.

The Chinese, in turn, gave the Philadelphians a collection of traditional Chinese instruments, including two pipas (a lute), a sheng (a reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes), a chest of twelve bamboo flutes, three suonas (a double-reed instrument), and three erhus (a two-stringed instrument), a large drum, and a three-foot brass gong. A score and recording of the Yellow River Concerto completed the gift.

After the gift exchange, the players talked shop, examined instruments, and compared techniques.

Presentation of scores by American composers to the Central Philharmonic Society
Beijing, 15 September 1973
Li Delun (center) examines one of the scores presented by assistant conductor William Smith (left). Between Smith and Li, in the background, is WCAUTV reporter Kati Marton (holding a microphone) and between Marton and Li is New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg. Eugene Ormandy is standing to the right with his back to the camera.
Presentation of gift trumpet to the Central Philharmonic Society
Beijing, 15 September 1973
Principal trumpet Gilbert Johnson presents a trumpet to the principal trumpet of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy is standing to the right of Johnson.
Presentation of gong by the Chinese
Beijing, 15 September 1973
Percussionists Michael Bookspan (left center) and Anthony Orlando (right center) accept a gong presented by the Chinese. To the left (with notebook) is New York Times music critic Harold C. Schoenberg, and to the far right, with his back to the camera, is Eugene Ormandy.
Introduction The Trip Repertory for the Tour Central Harmonic Society Third Concert in Beijing Orchestra as Tourists Performances by the Chinese After the Tour Sond Recordings