Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Chinese are coming!

This article in the New York Times suggests that classical music is Big in China. Leaving aside that everything is big in China, what with population pressure, the number of classical musicians China is producing is enormous (about 200,000 each year apply to conservatories as opposed to a few thousand in the 1980s), their instruments are getting better and better - you can get a really good Chinese fiddle for a few thousand dollars, as opposed to, in the European viola world at least, 10,000 to stratospheric Euros, and concert halls for classical western music are popping up like mushrooms. Piano shops look like car showrooms, 30 million young people learn the piano, and 10 million learn the violin. Whew!

We had this experience at last year's viola congress in Montreal, where a wonderful Chinese viola professor, chairman of the Chinese viola society, had brought along a band of about a dozen viola players, including at least one set of brothers. In a masterclass one of those brothers, Bo Li, gave an astonishing, riveting, miles above everyone else performance of Bach's Chromatic fantasy (normally a piano piece). Afterwards one of his colleagues whispered to me 'he's not the best among us, you know'. Later on at least two of them, including Bo Li, won prizes at the Tertis viola competition.

And still, as the NY Times points out, China has not yet produced a world class orchestra. It would be ironic if this communist country only produced soloists!