Lecture Series: Why Beethoven?
Ever since the beginnings of a classical music scene in the New World, Beethoven has been the central figure. The New York Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s 5th symphony at its first concert in 1842, and Boston’s Symphony Hall, which opened in 1900, has a proscenium surrounded by a series of plaques intended to display composers’ names. Beethoven’s is the only name displayed, above the center of the stage. To this day the other plaques remain empty. Today in China, Western art music has the stature it once had in America, and, again, it is Beethoven who is most highly revered. Why is that? Is it a question of specifically Chinese cultural values? Professor Hao Huang suggests Confucian philosophy and classical music both privilege intellectual rigor, personal discipline and regular practice towards self-improvement. Or is it a question of China adopting European values and practices that have been questioned and problematized in America?