Soprano wife of China’s leader makes rare concert appearance

Soprano wife of China’s leader makes rare concert appearance


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2013

Rudolph Tang has sent us this fascinating dispatch from Beijing:

The China National Symphony Orchestra presented a concert as part of its 2013-14 season on December 10, 2013 at Beijing Concert Hall, commemorating the centenary of veteran music critic turned orchestra executive Li Ling. Mr Li was the founding president of Central Philharmonic when it was formed on July 10, 1956. Central Philharmonic Orchestra was renamed China National Symphony Orchestra in 1996.

The podium was shared by Han Zhongjie (93), Liangkun Yan (90), Chen Xieyang (74) and Shao En (60), all closely associated with Central Phil. The concert made headlines all over China when the First Lady appeared in the auditorium and queued with the audience for her seat. Mrs Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi of China, is a famed soprano and a disciple of Mr Li Ling.

The privileged class in China usually enjoys direct access to the reserved seats with no need to queue. The official news agency released two photos of the First Lady waiting in line for her seat together with Mr Guan Xia (man in barehead), president of CNSO.

Mr Li Ling was born on December 6th, 1913 in southern China. A loyal party member and activist, he was instrumental in founding the Central Phil which used to be China’s premiere league orchestra. He was criticized in 1962 for advocating “light music” and subsequently removed from office in 1963 amid political upheaval. He was vindicated in 1977 and reinstalled as President of National Opera and Dance Company in 1978.

During the last decade he was more than ever active in writing reviews, commentary and criticism. He was the founding editor of monthly journal New Music (now deceased) and has since published dozens of books. He died in 2003 at 90.




  • Rudolph Tang says:

    Hi Norman, why don’t you do Five Most Important Women in China’s Music? Mrs Xi is definitely on the top.

  • Hongkonger says:

    Wing-Sie Yip, music director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. A terrific talent and if she were a Caucasian male would be far far better known.