Virtual is the word this year for cultural events worldwide. But the 23rd Beijing Music Festival (BMF) may be the most spectacular online musical experience of 2020. With 240 hours of nonstop programming, the 23rd annual BMF is tackling the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. From Oct. 10-20, the Festival aims to restore and promote cultural engagement and meet the public’s spiritual and artistic needs.
The theme of this year’s BMF is “The Music Must Go On.” Artistic Director Shuang Zou explains, “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 100 operas and nearly 1,000 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.”
Adds Maestro Long Yu, “A 240-hour nonstop festival has never been attempted by anyone in the classical music industry…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.”
The BMF is poised to tackle those challenges while simultaneously meeting the needs of the public through high-quality cultural offerings. One highlights will be the themed concert series “Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary,” commemorating the great composer with performances of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, piano concertos, violin sonatas, and symphonies in online and offline (streamed) performances. From October 12 to 14, a special featured section will culminate in performances of the Beethoven’s 10 violin sonatas featuring 10 rising-star violinists. And the BMF Children Festival Orchestra, freshly expanded to 100 musicians, will perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Another high point will be the themed closing concert “Born in 2000” on October 20. Long Yu conducts the China Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) with five young artists born in 2000: Mingyue Yu, Ruifeng Lin, Nana Ouyang, Xiaofu Ju, and Shen Liu. They will be be joined by Huang Yanxiong, head of the China Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CPO and Poly Culture Company with the theme “We were born in 2000.”
The Festival will also present the world premiere, at the October 10 Grand Opening Concert, of “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 and conducted by Wuhan composer Ye Zou. The performance will feature the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, and the Wuhan-born musicians of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, with singers Liping Zhang and Leiming He, both from Wuhan, along with the Wuhan Conservatory of Music Choir and Beijing Music Association Chorus.
Other Festival events include:
- 20 live performances to be streamed online, including orchestral concerts, chamber music, solo recitals, and more, covering music from the Western classical canon, Chinese orchestral music, jazz, crossover music, and many other categories
- 240-plus hours of audio and video programs presented in full on the BMF Club app, the Festival’s online knowledge-sharing platform, with 28 live online features highlighting rich perspectives on classical music culture
- One concert per day streamed live on Facebook
- Two concerts by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra
- Live broadcasts of music by great Western classical composers including Mozart, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, and operas by composers like Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner
- The Music High Tea series, in which Jian Wang, Weiling Xu, Hongguang Jia, and other performers who have won the “Artist of the Year” honor at BMF reunite online to talk about art and life.
- The classic opera series “Nessun Dorma” and the Opéra Comique opera film Carmen
- Music Storyville, showcasing the best stories in music
- A “Music is Boundless” documentary series recording crossover musicians’ explorations
- Two sets of three BMF children’s concerts
- Ten “Music at Noon” concerts especially for office workers and the general public during their lunch breaks
- The BMF debut of the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra
An additional theme of this year’s Festival is copyright awareness. “BMF strives to lead the standardization of copyright use in China’s music market,” says Maestro Long Yu. “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.”
This year’s BMF looks back as well as forward. Along with the High Tea Series noted above, audiences can revisit the Festival’s 23-year history. Masterworks staged at BMF are played again, while musicians and conductors attend guide-in sessions with the audience to recall great moments of their own historic performances.
For more information and details visit the BMF Facebook page.