Watch on PBS’s Great Performances

Premieres April 16

About the Film

Beethoven in Beijing starts with a forgotten moment, when an American president wangled an invitation to have his favorite orchestra visit communist China. This award-winning documentary, produced by History Making Productions, vividly recounts the Philadelphia Orchestra’s breakthrough 1973 tour of China—the first American orchestra to visit the People’s Republic—and reveals the astounding resurgence of classical music there today.

Beethoven in Beijing is the tale of a cultural reversal of fortunes and a struggle for survival—as well as a glimpse of the very future of classical music worldwide.

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Synopsis

Forgotten history. Thrilling music. Tense diplomacy. Mao, Nixon, Ormandy. Beijing, Philadelphia, Hollywood. Beethoven in Beijing brings this all together in a fascinating documentary that recounts the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 tour of the People’s Republic and the impact of this cultural gesture on U.S.-China relations that resonates to this day.

Archival footage, exclusive backstage access of contemporary tours, and testimonials bring to life the vivid stories of those who lived it then–including Chinese musicians who nervously greeted Maestro Eugene Ormandy, and those who live it now–including Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun and renowned pianist Lang Lang, who credit the Philadelphia Orchestra for inspiring their careers.


  • “…archivally rich, ideologically balanced, and compelling American story.”

    Ken Burns'

    The Better Angels Society
  • “…the story of a complex relationship between two countries during challenging times, mended in part through music. The film is also a testimony to how hard the human spirit is willing to work in order to share an uplifting experience.”

    Erika James,

    dean of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • “This captivating film reminds us of the tremendous power of music to unite people and to transcend geopolitical borders.”

    Jon Parrish Peede,

    Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Gallery


Meet Our Team

  • Sam Katz

    Producer and Executive Producer

    Philadelphia-based civic leader and documentarian Sam Katz has produced several films and is the founder of History Making Productions which has dramatized Philadelphia history winning 18 Emmys for Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.

  • Jennifer Lin

    Co-Director, Producer and Writer

    Living and working in China for four years as a correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lin launched Beethoven in Beijing in 2015 after 31 years at the newspaper. She is an award winning reporter and author of two books.

  • Sharon Mullally

    Co-Director

    An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Mullaly began her career in television in Philadelphia and Baltimore before shifting to independent film. Her 2015 film on Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia received the Gabriel Award.

  • Rachel Sophia Stewart

    Editor

    Stewart has edited several films and projects for HMP since 2012, including Philadelphia: The Great Experiment. Her intuitive approach to pacing and storytelling has earned her five Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards.

  • Paul Van Haute

    Director of Photography

    A cinematographer for 30 years, Van Haute ‘s recent work with HMP has been praised with six mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards for Philadelphia: The Great Experiment and Before Hollywood: Philadelphia and Birth of the Movies.

  • Jindong Cai

    Producer and Script Consultant

    The inaugural director of the U.S.-China Music Institute at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Cai is also a composer and author, having co-written two books with his wife, Sheila Melvin.

  • Jon Kohl

    Archival Producer

    Winner of three Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards for HMP’s Cecil’s People, Kohl shapes our documentaries through archival footage and photographs. He formerly worked at Temple University’s Samuel L. Paley Library.

  • Jacob Rivkin

    Animator

    An artist focusing on the connection between art, science, and history, Rivkin has shown work at the Animation Block Party and Factual Animation Film Festival. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University.

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Generous Support Provided By

Special Thanks To

Lisa Kabnick John McFadden
Marie Field Joseph Field

And

Carole Haas Gravagno
Miller-Worley Foundation
Leslie Anne Miller Richard Worley
Morningside Education Foundation
25 Century Fund
Caroline Rogers Lyn Buck Jim Buck
Lozenge and Osagie Imasogie
Hess Foundation, Inc.
Hon. Connie H. Williams Dr. Sankey Williams
Zisman Family Foundation
Linda Gamble Michael Zisman