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15 April

Fourth Letter From Beijing

19 Apr, 2007

Dear Singers,

April is a hectic month for bank.  To this day, I’ve done over 100 hours’ OT this month. 

On one of the recent endless nights, after I washed off a big Yoshinoya beef bowl within five minutes, I got a brief SMS from a dear friend of the Central Conservatory:

复制贝多芬 一定要看!(Copying Beethoven. Must watch!)

So I got one.

Before I managed to find time to watch the whole movie, I took a quick browse.  I randomly chose somewhere in the middle: a concert was just over, the audience rose and put their hands together like mad.  Obviously it should have been something deafeningly loud, but I couldn’t hear anything.  I doubted whether the decoder with my laptop cannot deal with this format, but a second thought cleared the confusion: it’s from Beethoven, the deaf conductor’s perspective, who couldn’t hear the thundering applause from the audience behind him.

Copying Beethoven is basically an invented story: a girl was sent to Beethoven as a copyist four days before the premiere of the 9th symphony, who dreamed to copy Beethoven’s virtuosity and success as a composer as well.

Ed Harris did an excellent job in the role of Beethoven, a virile maestro resplendent with musical creativity yet constantly suffered from loneliness, betrayal of his cosset nephew, never-ending uproar in his head that he could only relieve by writing it down into music, and most terribly, deafness that denied the pleasure of hearing his own work.  Ed managed to conduct in a seemingly quite genuine way, he played piano and violin, he even put up some German accent (this movie is in English, though the venue is assumed to be Vienna of 1824 and was actually shot in Hungary).

The music, of course all from Beethoven, combined perfectly with the flow of story.  Just one example, pay attention to the music right before the copyist was to visit her idol for the first time.  It tells her mind.

The climax of this movie is the premiere, which lasted about 15 minutes.  15 minutes scene of the conductor, orchestra, choir and soloists, think about it!  The music was by London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus but the in-vision performance was by a Hungarian orchestra and choir.  I took great interest in watching the entrance of the choral part, which illustrates the facial details of choral singers right before their burst.

In them I saw myself.

It’s amazing.  It reminds me of so much that happened during my encounter with TPCC.  It brings me back to the inauguration of Esplanade in 2002, in which we sang the 9th.  It brings me back to the flight to Tokyo 6 days before that concert, during which I was reading the score of the 9th in a final attempt to memorize the music.  And do you guys remember that all but Mr. Lim were informed of the delay of that flight, and the poor maestro wasted the whole morning sitting in the airport?  It all appears in my mind as clear as yesterday.  The whole experience with TPCC was pieced together, like the Kallang river trickling from the Lower Peirce Reservoir finally merged into the capacious Kallang Basin before it rushes to the sea.

Many comment that Copying Beethoven is mediocre.  I reckon they say so because they are not music amateur.  How can one who never sings in a choir fully understand the anxiety, eager, and burst of a choir described in this movie?  It’s just like how can one who never plays or sings in the 9th Symphony fully understand it?

I am very sure that it is my singing with TPCC that enables me to appreciate Beethoven, appreciate his music, as well as appreciate this movie.  I wish all of you would enjoy it as I did.

Best regards

Wang Yi

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