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Classical 101

A Symphony for The Chinese New Year

Wikipedia- public media
The East India Company iron steam ship Nemesis, commanded by Lieutenant W. H. Hall destroying the Chinese war junks in Anson's Bay

We had the Boston Tea Party; the Chinese had the First Opium War of 1839.  Both were the result of actions by the British that were deemed unjust. The latter earned the attention of contemporary composers Zhou Long and Chen Yi.  

In Boston, they threw an entire shipment of tea into the harbor as an act of political protest against the East India Company.  It was the culmination of resistance against the Tea Act which was seen as "taxation without representation" and led ultimately to the American Revolution.

In China, they seized over 1,000 tons of opium from English traders and set it on fire by the Pearl River in Humen, Guandong in an attempt to ban the illegal trading of opium by the British in Qing Dynasty China.  This event prompted the British to declare war on China in 1839.

Chinese composer Zhou Long (with Chen Yi) wrote the Symphony "Humen 1839" about this event.  This four-movement work from 2009 uses traditional Chinese melodies from Guandong in the first movement.  The second movement is a portrait of the scholar and national hero Lin Zexu who led the fight against opium smuggling and destroyed much of the drug at Humen.  The third movement is a mournful adagio expressing the humiliation of defeat in the war.  The final movement is hopeful, expressing the nation's spirit and preservation of dignity as it looks toward the future.

Looking toward the Chinese New Year on February 8th, on the next Symphony@ 7, I'll have a recent recording from Naxos of the Symphony "Humen 1839" by Zhou Long and Chen Yi from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Darrell Ang.

In the second half of the hour, I'll have something distinctly lighter in tone, the sunny Symphony No. 5 in Bb by Franz Schubert.  Join me here on Classical 101 Thursday evening at 7.