18 June, 2009

Brief book review: Rhapsody in Red (and 弦裂)

Brief book review: Rhapsody in Red

Thanks to a post by RC in the always informative usenet newsgroup 3music.classical, I learned about this book and its availability from the library.

Although it's well researched, it is quite an easy read that is immeasurably enlivened by many anecdotes from the start to the finish. I shall not detail what the book is all about, instead directing you to:

1. Publisher's website Info

2. Amazon site (where one of the customer reviews is by the NTUA piano staff Rolf-Peter Wille)

3. If you want to preview, the ENTIRE book is available on the net (Google Books). Make sure you at least look at the photos, among which my favorite is one on page 10, showing 劉詩昆, 顧聖嬰 and 殷承忠.

Some of the major characters in the book are the missionaries, MARIO PACI, 李德倫, 譚抒真, 賀綠汀, as well as 聶耳, 冼星海, etc.

Instead of writing about the book, I shall just randomly cite some passages/anecdotes I found particularly enticing:

  • Father Pedrini (page 69)
  • Paul Robeson recorded our 國歌 (as Arise) in 1941 and donated all proceeds to help China in war (page 129). I had known several of Robeson's Chinese songs (sung in Chinese, like 康定情歌) but not this one.
  • Under Japanese occupation, Asahina had conducted the Shanghai orchestra (page 149).
  • Arrigo Foa conducted the HKPO for many years and died in HK in 1981 (page 195).
  • Nikolai Anosov, the famous conductor (page 201)
  • Oistrakh appeared with and made recordings (Beethoven Concerto and a Mozart sonata) with the Central PO under 李德伦 (page 215). If anyone knows more about its availability, let me know.
  • In 1978, when BPO visited, violinist Helmut Stern, who had spent time in Harbin after fleeing Hitler's Germany, was re-united with some of his friends (page 289). This was also mentioned in Stern's own book 弦裂, which is another book I highly recommend. Some of the anecdotes, like the rehearsal of Brahms, differ a bit in the two accounts. This book is another amazing thing: the original in German (Seitensprunge) had not been translated to English, but here it is in Chinese! This book is also available from the library.
So, 2 great books available from the library! No long queues line for these and no need to hurt your eyes reading Google Books.

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