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Philippe Herreweghe: Victor's March

Leave it to France to Flatter with Humility

The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées—with Belgium’s Philippe Herreweghe at their helm—isn’t here to perform Debussy, Halévy, or any other of France’s famous composers.


Instead, these paragons of the period piece give us pure Beethoven. Of course, this plays to China’s bias, as the German’s beloved symphonies have long been a part of the nation’s history. It was a symbollically potent part of diplomatic overtures with then-Secretary Kissinger harkening the beginning of the U.S.-China thaw, then broadcast as a signal of return to normalcy after The Helmsman’s passing, and taken up by the people as a hopeful anthem in a certain square during a certain year that must remain unmentioned.

Now, as part of the Festival Croisements, the Orchestra brings us Beethoven’s most famous symphony (No. 5) and the one he regarded as his best (No. 7). The latter is especially humble, for a French orchestra, as the maestro wrote the work to perform in honor of German soldiers who hit Napoleon where it hurt, during his 1813 retreat from his ill-considered conquests.


Take part in Beethoven’s power to bring together victors and their victims. In the hands of this authentic, earnest orchestra, reconciliation never sounded so sweet. ¥180-480.


Philippe Herreweghe & Orchestre des Champs-Elysées at NCPA, Thu., June 15, 7:30pm, en.damai.cn/event/tickets_121189

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Adam Robbins is a former Managing Editor for City Weekend Beijing. After leaving small town Maine for an education at Harvard and UT Austin, he moved on to Minnesota to help win marriage equality. Before traveling on to Shenzhen, he spent three years helping the Beijing LBGT Center, Beijing Gender, and other LGBT institutions survive this period of scrutiny and restriction.


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