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The Story

Beethoven in Beijing starts with a forgotten moment in history, when President Nixon secured an invitation to have his favorite orchestra visit the People’s Republic of China and help change the world. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 tour was a tentative gesture of cultural diplomacy that resonates yet today, when China produces millions of musicians, erects dozens of new concert halls, and fills chairs in orchestras around the world.

How did this happen? This film shows the awakening in vivid stories from the people who lived it then—like the Chinese musicians who nervously greeted Maestro Eugene Ormandy—and who live it today, like Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun and renowned pianist Lang Lang, who credit the Philadelphians with inspiring their careers.
Archival footage and first-person recollections from American and Chinese musicians bring to life that 1973 visit, while behind-the-scenes access on current tours captures the dynamism of present-day China, from its sparkling new concert halls to its tens of thousands of young musicians. The result, complete with a sublime symphonic soundtrack, is a compelling look at the transcendent power of music.

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