It is not just business and building that are booming in China. Western classical music is rising fast -- and Germany has plans to get in on the ground floor of a huge culture market.
139 pianos graced one stage at the Hangzhou Arts Festival, 2004
In the booming southern Chinese province of Guangdong, the world's largest piano factory, Pearl River, is planning to roll out its one-millionth instrument this March. China doesn't just build pianos, though. It plays them -- sometimes on the world stage.
That wasn't always the case. Young Chinese virtuosos like Lang Lang have had international success in recent years, but western music first entered Chinese concert halls in the 1980s, after the country relaxed controls on its economy. Now, those Chinese who can afford it make sure their only child learns a Western music instrument.
Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang
As part of the trend, the popularity of classical music is soaring in China. Mozart, whose 250th anniversary is being celebrated throughout the world in 2006, is currently high on the list of most-beloved Western composers.
This interest in European music has not gone unnoticed by the German Music Council, Germany's largest umbrella association for music. The council's president, Martin Krüger, recently visited China, with the aim of improving musical ties between the two countries.
Wagner's 'Ring' in China
German music has been particularly popular in China recently. In October, 2005, the Staatstheater Nuremberg performed Richard Wagner's monumental Ring Cycle in its entirety. The Stuttgart Radio Orchestra was featured at the Beijing Music Festival, as was the Berlin Symphonic Orchestra, which also went on to perform in Shanghai.
According to Krüger, talks between the German Music Council and its Chinese equivalent were fruitful, especially on the topic of an exchange program between the two nations.
Right now, Austrian composer Mozart is big in China
"Our current plan is nothing new. The special part is that it is taking place at an official, national level," Krüger said. "Questions of protocol play a big role in China."
Improving musical ties
Now, the German Music Council has named a German-trained Chinese musician, Yang Lin, to represent the council in China. The main goal of the cooperation is to improve musical ties between the two countries. To this end, it has already set up a few joint projects, including agreeing to form a German-Chinese ensemble that would play at appropriate occasions -- for example, the opening of the Chinese cultural center in Berlin. And with a German-Chinese Year of Culture planned for 2007, the groups also planned to create a joint youth symphony orchestra.