MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

23rd Beijing Music Festival

The 23rd Beijing Music Festival (BMF), which runs 10-20 October (11-21 October in the West), will combine an online and offline festival into a 10-day, nonstop, 240-hour marathon of concerts, operas, documentary films, commentary, and more.

Audiences in Beijing can attend the concerts and those in the rest of China can watch the whole festival, live from their mobile device or computer. The following concerts (Western dates) will be posted for foreign audiences on BMF’s Facebook page:

October 11: Opening Concert

October 12: Suzhou Chinese Orchestra

October 13: Beethoven Violin Sonatas

October 14: Beethoven Violin Sonatas II

October 15: Beethoven Violin Sonatas III

October 16: Yuan Shen (pianist) Recital

October 17: Jiayi (pianist) Recital

October 18: Sleepover at the Museum

October 19: BMF Children’s Concert

October 20: Liushen (Opera singer) Recital

October 21: Closing Concert

This year’s festival has planned around the theme “The Music Must Go On” in this time of “the new normal.”

The Opening Concert features a world premiere, Dedicated to 2020,  which is a choral symphony jointly commissioned by BMF and the China Philharmonic Orchestra and written by Wuhan composer Ye Zou, who will also lead the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, and the Wuhan-born musicians of the China Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere.

Singers Liping Zhang and Leiming He, who are both from Wuhan, will take the stage along with the Wuhan Conservatory of Music Choir and Beijing Music Association Chorus.

Other highlights this year include all 10 Beethoven violin sonatas performed (one each) by some of China’s rising-star violinists, the premiere of the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra, virtual performances by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and performances by the BMF Children’s Orchestra.

From the press release:

BMF is adapting by offering both online and offline channels for viewers. From October 10 to 20, the Festival will present 20 performances, including orchestral concerts, chamber music, solo recitals, and opera films, among other events. The range of offerings spans across the Western classical music canon, Chinese orchestral music, jazz, cross-over, and other categories.

Three series of concerts are organized around the themes “Beijing and Wuhan” (in which musicians jointly present the idea of joining together to fight the epidemic with the commissioned work, Dedicated to 2020), “Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary,” and “Born in 2000.

There will also be a drive-in Carmen, two sets of three BMF children’s concerts, ten “Music at Noon” concerts, and the BMF debut of the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra. In order to allow more audiences to witness the festival, the offline performances during the BMF will be broadcast live online via multiple platforms. 

Online, more than 240 hours of audio and video programs will be fully presented to audiences on the BMF Club APP. More than 100 classical musicians, cross-over artists, and celebrities from film, television, and drama will be brought together to participate in the BMF online shows.

Says BMF Artistic Director Shuang Zou: “This year, the sudden pandemic outbreak broke our original plan for the festival. Under the forward-looking guidance of the Chairman of the artistic committee, Long Yu, the BMF team responded to the changes with keen and immediate action. This year, the festival presents 240 hours of non-stop, high-quality music including nearly a hundred operas and nearly a thousand classical music works. Coordinating with musicians and artists at home and abroad, we have made a bold attempt to break boundaries. Let music belong to every music lover, and let love be unrestricted.”

Cooperation in the introduction of a variety of audio and video products; Standardization in the use of copyright

BMF believes securing copyrights is important not only to protect the economic interests of creators but also to protect the artistic vitality of creators. In order to present more than 240 hours of such programs, BMF has selected more than 2,000 pieces of music of all kinds and cooperated with a number of performing art agencies and copyright parties in the introduction of live concert videos, feature films, documentaries, and other diverse audio and video productions.

Maestro Long Yu, Chairman of the Beijing Music Festival, stresses the importance of this decision, stating, “Copyrights are an important aspect for musicians’ survival, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when most concerts are taking place online. We need to pay respect to these great artists who still overcome many difficulties and work hard in order to continue to perform for music lovers. One of the most important ways we can help is to raise copyright awareness and to pay respects through it. BMF strives to lead the standardization of copyright use in China’s music market. This provides all audiences with the highest quality of authentic music and sends a message that China has made a very important contribution to the protection of intellectual property rights.”

BMF teams up with world-renowned classical music labels such as Naxos China, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music to ensure that every piece is used in accordance with globally-recognized legal norms and that all music is played “genuinely” on its platform in order to track, verify, and identify copyright transactions and usage patterns.

Copyright cooperation with the world’s major record companies, compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and respect for the premise of artistic creation achieves a win-win situation between music festivals, copyright parties, and audiences. The Beijing Music Festival once again leads the industry in this major step in the field of copyright regulation. 

As a pathfinder in China’s classical music industry, BMF is recognized in innovation and creativity by the industry, so that artists and copyright-holders are all maintaining strong faith in this year’s new planning model. Beijing Music Festival’s growing circle of international friends includes the world’s best performing arts agencies and major record companies, so copyright cooperation between both sides can quickly reach mutual trust and benefit. BMF has extremely high appeal and influence among audiences, who believe that every piece of music from BMF tells a story and stands scrutiny.

To introduce Western classical music culture to China, to present and support Chinese musicians to the world, and to lead the standardization of copyright use in the Chinese music market, the Beijing Music Festival leads the Chinese industry in achieving the goal of connecting with a world platform and moving forward together.

A 240-hour online music feast

For the 2020 edition, the BMF Club APP, an online knowledge-sharing platform for the Beijing Music Festival, will bring music lovers and concertgoers online through in-depth and informative knowledge-sharing courses, relying on the artists and content providers of the Beijing Music Festival throughout the last 22 years. This year’s Beijing Music Festival of 240 hours of performances will also be presented in full on the BMF Club APP. 

The main focuses will be classic opera in the series “Nessun Dorma”; “Music Storyville,” which showcases the best stories in music; and the “Music is Boundless” Documentary Series, which records the path of cross-over musicians’ exploration, and more.

In 2020, the change from the traditional offline music festival to an organic combination of 240 hours of non-stop online and offline programs refreshes the industry’s concept of a music festival

Numerous online features combine classical music and other categories of art at the same time, transforming the traditional mode of viewing classical music into an indispensable link in the modern way of life. It breaks through the constraints of time and space allowing music culture to take root in the city.

Besides the traditional evening concerts, this year’s Beijing Music Festival will continue and upgrade the “Music at Noon” concerts which began in 2019, by targeting office workers and the general public during their lunch breaks, so that classical music in the fast-paced urban life can grow. 

From more than 240 hours of programs to nearly 50 thoughtfully planned, high-quality features, BMF creates a new model of an offline-online combination for classical music festivals, providing classical music institutions around the world with a template for the transformation.

Maestro Long Yu states: “A 240-hour nonstop festival has never been attempted by anyone in the classical music industry. The Beijing Music Festival has been an industry leader for 23 years, inspiring the world through its great innovation in performing arts and operations. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 may have changed the original ecology of the classical music industry, but BMF stands ready to lead the industry in a big step forward to face these new challenges.”

Tributes to heroes through memorial music highlights a rich theme; BMF supports young musicians to shine on the international stage

Rising through the tribulations and moving forward in the face of adversity, millions of people in Wuhan united as one against the epidemic. With a tragic and heroic epic, the brave city needs to be paid homage for going through the difficult times. Dedicated to 2020 — A Symphony for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus and Orchestra, a choral symphony jointly commissioned by BMF and the China Philharmonic Orchestra and composed by Wuhan composer Ye Zou, will have its world premiere at the Grand Opening Concert on October 10.  Under the baton of the composer himself, the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, and the Wuhan-born musicians of the China Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the new work on stage.

Meanwhile, singers Liping Zhang and Leiming He, who are both from Wuhan, will take the stage along with the Wuhan Conservatory of Music Choir and Beijing Music Association Chorus.  In 2020, musicians around the world planned to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary. For more than 20 years, Beethoven’s music has been part of the regular repertoire of BMF. During this year’s festival, Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, five piano concertos, ten violin sonatas, and nine symphonies will be presented to the audience through online and offline performances.  

From October 12 to 14, a special featured section will culminate in performances of the Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas featuring ten rising-star violinists including Haoming Xie, Yige Chen, Yiliang Jiang, Wendi Wang, Runyin Zhang, Huali Dang, Qianxun Su, Ming Liu, Zhenyang Yu, and Ruifeng Lin. All ten acclaimed violinists are in their twenties or thirties and have won high-profile international awards in recent years.

In 2017, BMF and Nestlé jointly established the Nestlé Cup-Young Musician Award, which aims to reflect BMF’s encouragement and expectations for China’s “Star of Hope” and to provide them with an opportunity to communicate with the world. The Nestlé Cup-Young Musician Award of the 23rd Beijing Music Festival will be awarded to these ten violinists. Given the opportunity to showcase on a high-profile stage like BMF, these young musicians will have the change to receive widespread attention from national and international audiences.

Throughout the ten-day audio and video live broadcast, the audience revisits the Beijing Music Festival’s 23 years of glorious history. Masterworks staged at BMF are played again. Musicians and conductors attend guide-in sessions with the audience to recall wonderful moments of their own historical performances. In the Music High Tea series, Jian Wang, Weiling Xu, Hongguang Jia, and other performers who have won the “Artist of the Year” honor at BMF are reunited online to talk about art and life. Qigang Chen, Xiaogang Ye, Wenjing Guo, Long Zhou, and other Chinese composers meet with the audience to relive the unforgettable past in the process of telling Chinese stories and extending Chinese voices since the “Chinese Concept” was first proposed at the Beijing Music Festival in 2002.

With ten days of live audio and video, the audience is integrated into the international circle of friends of the Beijing Music Festival. In 2019, BMF welcomed the first resident orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO), and this year the MCO will present two concerts specially planned for the festival’s audience. In 2020, Krzysztof Penderecki, the conductor and composer with close ties to BMF, passed away, and his documentary will be broadcast during the festival in memory of the great Polish musician.

In addition, works of Beethoven, whose 250th birthday is this year, as well as classic pieces by composers such as Mozart, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, and operas by composers like Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner, will be broadcast live. The Beijing Music Festival’s consistently high standards have been extended to live streaming online, with more than 2,000 pieces of music screened in detail: a full Beethoven symphony recorded by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, and a full set of Der Ring des Nibelungen recorded by Jaap van Zweden and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Comprehensive innovation and upgrading of outreach projects;

BMF Children Festival Orchestra plays Beethoven’s Fifth

Outreach projects are some of the most distinctive and shining attributes of the Beijing Music Festival brand. With the development and expansion of the festival, its connotation is constantly extending, expanding, and upgrading. This year, BMF provides outreach activities with rich forms and themes for audiences of different ages, levels, and preferences through various online and offline channels.

In 2020, the BMF Children Festival Orchestra has been upgraded, and after a fresh, open recruitment, the orchestra expanded its lineup to 100 musicians, who will play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the festival. The BMF Children Festival Orchestra is a display platform for music-loving teenagers created by Beijing Music Festival. As an important part of a public welfare project of the festival, the BMF Children Festival Orchestra adheres to the principle of social equality, and does not charge any fees to students during selection, teaching, rehearsals, or performances. Especially in the context of the impact of the epidemic on normal life in 2020, BMF invites maestros of different instruments to guide each student by recording online lessons and instruction, so as to ensure the smooth progress of learning and rehearsal.

In order for the children’s orchestra to develop continuously, normatively, and professionally, BMF has formulated a long-term strategic plan, matched many resources, and strived to create a more vast stage and a longer development space. “BMF provides a golden key for children to open a door and starts a path from the children’s concert to the BMF Children Festival Orchestra. It brings them happiness, growth, and dreams; and provides a lifetime of spiritual wealth and a future of infinite possibility. We are doing our best to help this children’s orchestra go further,” said He Yu, chairman of Kuke Music. From 2020, Kuke Music will fully support the BMF Children Festival Orchestra and integrate its own music education products and resources to help its members.

Another children’s concert, Sleepover at the Museum Online Podcast, also meets with children during this festival. The combination of music and a children’s book creates an opportunity for kids to explore museums and to roam the ocean of knowledge, igniting curiosity in a fun way. In addition, the performance invites mysterious guests to act as narrators and lead children to participate in it.

The Music at Noon concerts, an outreach project jointly created by BMF and Beijing Music Broadcasting (FM97.4), will also be upgraded in 2020. It organically combines live performance with radio, making classical music break through the limitations of time and space and connecting with more people through radio waves. Traditional radio programs become more vivid through the addition of live performances. This year’s lunchtime concerts continue the concept of “Music all around and Music all the time.” Compared with the evening concerts, the venue of the lunchtime concerts goes deep into public spaces such as office buildings, attracting everyone from classical music fans to white-collar groups and office workers, thus attracting more audiences to pay attention to music and improve the quality of life. At the same time, the number of performances expanded to ten (October 11-October 20) throughout the festival.

In addition, BMF has also moved outreach projects such as concert guides online. The offline concerts conduct live interviews with musicians, and the musicians themselves interpret the music and share their insights. Online, for different genres of music – such as opera, symphony, and chamber music – BMF invites singers, conductors, performers, and many other musicians to introduce their works and share their own performance experiences, and to combine music with life experience, so as to make the traditional guided tour of music works more vivid and more comprehensible.

It is the duty of the Beijing Music Festival to support young artists and provide fresh faces for Chinese classical music. At the closing concert on October 20, Long Yu conducts the China Philharmonic Orchestra with five young artists born in 2000 –Mingyue Yu, Ruifeng Lin, Nana Ouyang, Xiaofu Ju, and Shen Liu. Huang Yanxiong, head of the China Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra, also joins on stage to celebrate and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the China Philharmonic Orchestra and Poly Culture Company with the theme “We were born in 2000.”

Filed under: Beijing Music Festival, music news

Beijing Music Festival: A Report

BMF-Du Yun-Angel's Bone

Du Yun’s “Angel’s Bone,” in its premiere production in the People’s Republic of China (photo credit: Beijing Music Festival)

Earlier this month, I visited the 22nd annual Beijing Music Festival. Here’s my report for Classical Voice North America, with a focus on BMF’s emphasis on new music under the dynamic leadership of Shuang Zou (now in her second year as the festival’s artistic director):

“Golden Week” is the name for the national holiday period held in the People’s Republic of China at the beginning of October. This year, it also signaled an earlier-than-usual start to the annual Beijing Music Festival (BMF) — the country’s largest and most extensive festival devoted to classical music…


Filed under: Beijing Music Festival, Classical Voice North America, festivals, Long Yu, new music, new opera, Shuang Zou

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