A Centennial Celebration
Curated by Marjorie
Touring Japan and China
It was a thoroughly inspired performance, in which the complete unity of mind reached between the conductor and the orchestra was felt almost immediately.
--Ashai Evening News, Tokyo, 4 May 1967
The Philadelphia Orchestra first traveled to Japan in the spring of 1967, performing for capacity audiences in Osaka, Kanazawa, Nagoya, and Tokyo. Unlike earlier trips abroad, this tour was not State-Department sponsored; instead all of the arrangements were made directly with Japanese impresarios. The highlight of the trip was arguably the Orchestra's participation in the tenth Osaka International Festival, where they performed the Japanese composer Ikuma Dan's Symphony No. 4, shown below.
Ormandy and the Orchestra returned to Japan on two occasions--in 1972 and 1978--each tour a triumph in terms of both audience response and critical acclaim. Japanese interest in the Orchestra has in fact persisted, and both of Ormandy's successors to the Philadelphia podium, Riccardo Muti and Wolfgang Sawallisch, have led the musicians on tours to the Far East.
Your incomparable music has thrilled capacity audiences in the two largest communities of this nation. You have communicated the universal language with consummate skill and beauty, significantly furthering the President's objectives of better understanding between the Chinese and American peoples.
--David Bruce, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office, Peking
In a 1971 letter to President Richard Nixon, Eugene Ormandy suggested a Philadelphia Orchestra tour to China. Two years of negotiations led by Henry Kissinger finally produced an invitation from the Chinese government, and in September 1973 the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first United States Orchestra to visit the People's Republic of China. This State-Department-arranged tour took the musicians to Peking and Shanghai and, while housing and food were provided by the Chinese for the entire entourage during the group's two-week visit, the Orchestra received no fees for its six concerts.
The carefully-chosen repertory for the tour included several works by American composers as well as the Yellow River Concerto, with Chinese pianist Yin Cheng-Chung as soloist. Originally created as a cantata by the Chinese composer Hsien Hsing-hai in the 1940s, the work was later rewritten as a piano concerto by a committee of composers from the Central Philharmonic Society of the People's Republic of China. The concerto had received its Western Hemisphere premiere the previous month at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra's summer home.
By all accounts the tour was both a musical and political success: Madame Mao Tse-tung, in a rare public appearance, attended a Peking performance and shook the hand of each member of the orchestra following the concert; Maestro Ormandy was invited to conduct the Central Philharmonic Society during a rehearsal of Beethoven's fifth symphony--a recent addition to the orchestra's repertory, previously limited to works of the Chinese musical heritage; the gifts of instruments, books, music, and recordings presented by the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to their Chinese counterparts were warmly received and were exchanged for a number of Chinese instruments; and the crowds that followed the Orchestra's motorcade in Shanghai were extraordinary, numbering in the thousands.
Concertmaster Norman Carol performing for orchestra members
Peking, September 1973
Last update: Thursday, 16-Jun-2011 14:00:11 EDT