Beijing premieres victory-over-Covid symphony

Beijing premieres victory-over-Covid symphony


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2020

In an act of breathtaking international insensitivity, the 23rd Beijing Music Festival opened this weekend with the premiere of a symphony, ‘Dedicated to 2020’ by a composer from Wuhan, Zou Ye. It is supposed to represent the victory over Coronavirus.

The composer conducted the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and Wuhan-born musicians from the China Philharmonic Orchestra, together with Wuhan soprano Zhang Liping and baritone He Leiming.

Wuhan is where Covid-19 started. China now claims to be Covid-free while much of the rest of the world is locked down.

“‘Dedicated to 2020’ is the first large-scale (symphony) work paying tribute to the fight against the coronavirus epidemic,'” said the conductor Yu Long, chairman of the Beijing Music Festival Art Committee.

Here’s more.



  • mary says:

    I dunno, why not?

    There’s an AIDS symphony (Corigliano).

    There are all sorts of symphonies commemorating military victories in deadly bloody wars (basically, our people died but we killed more men on the other side, so we won), too many to name (mainly from Russia).

    So it’s in the spirit of people to mourn and to celebrate their victories … whether it’s a virus or a war.

    And plus, doesn’t China have a point? The inability of the West to contain the virus — despite all our superiority over China in medicine, hospital technology, pharmacology, health care system — is entirely the fault of failed politicians (Trump, Boris, France, Italy, Spain) to do the right thing?

    Why shouldn’t China be proud, just because the West is (criminally) negligent (Trump!!)?

    • AlanK says:

      Yes Indeed they should be proud. They likely created the virus in their bioweapons lab, and through incompetence allowed it to escape. They then closed off Wuhan to ret of China but allowed flights to continue to Europe and the Americas. They arrested doctors who published data on the contagion. Regardless of what you think of the west’s response, only a die hard leftist would admire the Communist Chinese response.

      • Not a fan says:

        Don’t lie, no doctors have been arrested for publishing data on the contagion. Dr. Li Wenliang was reprimanded by police but he had never been arrested. If you know any arrest, do list your source. Facts are apparently now your strength.

      • Ramesh Nair says:
        According to Prof John Barry, the 1918-20 ‘Spanish Flu’ that killed 10-50 million originated most likely in Kansas, and spread rapidly into Europe initially through American troop ships. His article ( linked above ) about this has been peer reviewed and published, as one can read, in the US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health — the article has never required retraction or significant correction, which indicates its conclusions are robust.

        • Sharon says:

          I understand that it was called the “Spanish Flu” because news of it was first published in Spain. Other countries including apparently the US at first tried to keep it quiet to prevent the public from panicking.

    • Bruce says:

      The AIDS Symphony (Corigliano) isn’t a celebration of the eradication of a disease — more like a “horrors of war” kind of piece, written before antiretroviral drugs so the disease was simply a killer, pure and simple: everyone who got it died, sooner or later, and there was nothing anyone could do (avoid it, yes; survive once you had it, no).

      That said: since this is Slipped Disc, it’s hard to be sure that this piece is what NL says it is, so — grain of salt and all that.

    • William Safford says:

      Why not, you ask? At best, it’s premature.

      A more honest “We’ve-made-a-lot-of-progress-against-COVID” Symphony doesn’t have quite the same panache….

      (I do agree with your sentiments about the infected and contagious orange enemy of the people.)

  • Gustavo says:

    Vector Biohaz:
    “Symphonie pandémique”

  • Jean says:

    Leif Segerstam had it first….

  • Simon says:

    youtube link:

    • John Borstlap says:

      This piece imitates the typical Soviet music that was government-instructed before the Fall of the Wall. Such music offered an easy argument in the West to claim government support for atonal modernism, thus creating a mirror image of similar horror, but into its opposite.

      I could not listen to more than 8 minutes…. unbearable!

  • John Borstlap says:

    It gives a clear insight in Chinese mentality.

    • Jerome Hoberman says:

      Please, enlighten us about the “Chinese mentality” (posted from Hong Kong, after 30 years’ residence).

      • John Borstlap says:

        It’s the strength of collective action, fed by the experience of a couple of thousands of years of keeping-up an immense empire, and instructed by Confucius. You should know, me thinks.

        • Fan says:

          To your credit, you’ve actually listened and for eight minutes, and I believe your Soviet style comment is to the point. However, your knowledge of Chinese history, unlike your apparent expertise in music, is limited. Nationalism is a Western invention, not native to China (and the unit of operation for Confucius is family). The Soviet style collectivism is in fact profoundly Judeo-Christian. Chinese before modernity were profoundly individualistic. That’s why Dr. Sun Yat-Sen calls China a plate of loose sand. There had never been organized religion on the scale of Christianity, which is an ultimate expression of collectivism. Even Buddhism became highly individualistic Zen when entering China. The current so-called collectivism shall be seen as a reaction, not as essence. The musical example will be the 1965 musical East Is Red, coming out in the same year as Sound of Music. The opening sequence is so liturgy-like that any Westerner will recognize this Soviet-style revolutionary music as church music.

  • Phillip W. says:

    The Chinese Communist Party is shameless. Causing the virus to spread around the globe. Using its murderous authoritarian system to contain it and celebrate its containment while 33 millions are infected and 1 million died. Let’s not forget the 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps and the brutal takeover of Hong Kong. Let’s hope the party will get its comeuppance soon.

  • Gustavo says:

    The “Wuhan disease” – that’s what some people call it.

  • Sharon says:

    I do not know, as Trump has implied, that if China had not lied about the extent of the virus in that country, and if the World Health Organization had not accepted the Chinese infection statistics, if the US or other countries would have acted differently.

    However it’s extremely unlikely that only 3800
    died in Wuhan and I question if China can be certain that it has totally eradicated this plague.