Historic First

In September 1973, after Ping Pong Diplomacy and many months of work, the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first American orchestra to travel to the People’s Republic of China. To bring the project to fruition, the National Committee played intermediary between orchestra officials, personnel in China’s U.N. Mission in New York, and State Department officials. The National Committee participated in preliminary discussions, worked on the planning and implementation of the visit, and briefed orchestra members and officials on relevant topics.

Under the direction of maestro Eugene Ormandy, the orchestra traveled to Beijing and Shanghai, giving six concerts during its two-week visit that showcased the orchestra’s breadth and virtuosity. Three of the six programs included a performance of the “Yellow River Concerto” played by Chinese pianist Yin Chengzhong; other pieces performed ranged from Mozart to Respighi. The orchestra was warmly received by Chinese audiences, and a highlight for many members of the orchestra was the opportunity for informal exchanges with Chinese musicians. Dr. Douglas P. Murray, then vice president of the National Committee, served as escort and advisor for the orchestra.

The visit paved the way for other American orchestras to tour the country. The next major event was the visit by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1979, celebrating normalization of relations between the two countries. The National Committee was also instrumental in that visit — briefing the orchestra members, providing the interpreters, and sending its then president, Arthur H. Rosen, board member Henry Sailer, and staff member Miriam Aneses as escorts and advisors.

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