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Exclusive: China’s most powerful orchestra is secretively formed

We have received the following report from an occasional correspondent in Shanghai, who requests anonymity:

The Three Highs Philharmonic Amateur Orchestra gave a low-profile non-public debut on November 30 at Shanghai Grand Theatre. It is comprised of high ranking politicians (ministers), high ranking military officers (generals) and high level intellectuals (professors or equivalent).

The Mayor and party boss of Shanghai Mr Han Zheng played accordion and the orchestra performed the cantata Jianzhen Crosses the Ocean to Japan, one of the pieces composed by the former Vice Premier and Politburo member Mr Li Lanqing set to the poem by Guo Moruo. The oldest orchestra member is 90 years ago. The grand public debut is set for Dec 21, 2012 at NCPA in Beijing.

So far little is known about this orchestra, how the musicians were selected and how was it funded. Some professionals are calling it “El sistema at the other end of the spectrum”.


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  1. They will debut on….”December 21st, 2012″…correct?

    And I always thought the Chinese were sensitive to numbers, if not downright superstitious about some.

    And they go and schedule a debut concert on THAT date?

  2. Ha ha ha !
    In my poor Russia only one general Tukhachevsky played violin. He was a brilliant commander from early age( commanded an Army at 26. Had a Stradivari violin that was latter taken away after he was shot on trumped up charges of plotting against Stalin. The violin showed up in the Bolshoi Theater Opera hose and played by one of its leaders.
    So typical of China. Even the tough play violin in such numbers.

  3. james brinton says:

    Meanwhile in the US, only half a dozen of the Congress can even carry a tune.
    This may explain a few things…

  4. Sorry, Alex Klein. What significance am I missing? (I don’t feel so bad, since they’re missing it, too.)

  5. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:


    I found this on a google of “Chinese December 21st, 2012″

    Maybe their getting together for a per-doomsday concert.

  6. Seeing your earlier posting on Asianisation and Tabloidisation, it is tempting to see a connection.
    An orchestra made up of generals and ministers is a scary thought. No wonder the public were not invited.
    I trust the three highs did not also refer to intonation. The “too highs” would have been bad enough.
    However it could make for good publicity “…with the “event” as defined by reports in glossy magazines becoming the sole point, and with even the organizers using business success to distract themselves from poor artistic quality…”
    Maybe they were all lip-syncing.

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