Vivaldi, Bach and Handel in China

July 10, 2014 at 06:09 AM · Greetings to all. I would like to know if the Chinese, here or abroad, have fully accepted the great masterpieces of Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel. For example I would recommend to all 'Erbarme Dich', middle of Bach's St. Matthew Passion? After all, the great masterpieces of the violin, viola and cello were developed during the same time period as the above. Charles

Replies (27)

July 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM · Huh? "Fully accept" how? They play the pieces just like everybody else.../boggle

July 10, 2014 at 11:03 AM · Have either they or you fully accepted the great masterpieces of Henry Purcell (in my view, Vivaldi's equal)?

July 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Probably more than most of us have accepted (or are even familiar with) the masterpieces of Chinese music...

July 10, 2014 at 03:01 PM · Huh? "Fully accept" how? They play the pieces just like everybody else.

Anything we can listen to on dvd, cd or youtube?


July 10, 2014 at 03:49 PM · John R: Perhaps I should have made my inquiry simpler, just asking if there are any Chinese interpretations of Erbarme Dich, from Bach's St Matthew Passion. Just google this, youtube, and you will find a gold mine of interpretations, from Europe and the US. None from China? Charles

July 10, 2014 at 04:21 PM · How are you expecting the Chinese interpretation of this piece to differ from one that is European or American?

July 10, 2014 at 04:33 PM · They fully accept all of these great works.

However, they play them on Chinese made instruments, which I have on Good Authority, are universally horrible instruments.

If only the Chinese would import old German workshop violins to play on, then maybe....just maybe they could truly enjoy the beauty of this classical music.

July 10, 2014 at 10:55 PM · To all. Just listen. I think every interpretation is different, but all very lovely.

bach st matthew passion erbarme dich youtube Charles

July 11, 2014 at 04:10 AM ·

July 11, 2014 at 06:36 AM · You will have more success if you google in Chinese. Also, YouTube is blocked in China, so it's no surprise that you cannot find a lot of videos from China there.

July 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM · The recording that used to be played to us at primary school assembly every few days must have been Kathleen Ferrier's. To my childish ears, the mood that seemed to come over was absolute desperation and terror - I'm afraid I haven't heard that recording since.

July 11, 2014 at 05:21 PM · Dear Joyce: Thank you for your very informative response. I wonder whether or not the 'powers that be' in China have also blocked the great masterpeices in music associated with a religious inspiration? Is it safe to find out? I think the content and message of The St Matthew Passion would be very appropriate for what little I know about China? Have you heard or seen the score of Bach's Erbame Dich? Just google - Bach St Mathew Passion Erbame Dich youtube - for some great interpretations. There are five or more which feature counter tenors and more which feature baroque performance. The one by the great counter tenor Michael Chance was followed by more than 500 comments on google. There are many interpretation which use modern string intruments such as that by Menuhin and Hilary Hahn, and most have contraltos or dramatic soprano. All in my opinion that I have heard, place Bach among the greatest in my opinion, but I don't want to get into the 'who are the greatest composers' discussion. Best regards, charles

July 14, 2014 at 05:29 PM · Greetings!

I have to admit that when I first saw this thread, I didn’t know what to make of it. On a second thought, I understand that you had a genuine question that might be lurking in many Westerners mind. I did a quick online search and the result might be of interest to you.

For Bach violin and cello solos, here are a few Chinese musicians’ recordings that can be purchased at

Ray Chen: Virtuoso (Composer: Giuseppe Tartini, Johann Sebastian Bach, Henri Wieniawski, César Franck)

Bin Huang: Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Bach: Chaconne

Ma,Yo-yo: Inspired By Bach: The Cello Suites

Jian Wang: Bach: 6 Suites For Violoncello Solo

Wu,Hekun: The Tao Of Bach

Also, international violin competitions (Menuhin, Queen E, etc.) all require competitors to be able to interpret Bach and Mozart at a highly matured level. And if you check the recent years records online, Chinese competitors have been numerous and among them, there have been a few notable winners too. For instance, the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, many consider to be one of the toughest violin competitions, following ethnic Chinese violinists are among the top 5 prize winners:

Hu Nai-yuan

Ray Chen

Feng Ning

Wen-Yu Shen

Zhang Zuo

Tseng Yu-Chien



July 14, 2014 at 05:38 PM · I think most of us understood Charles to mean Chinese still in China or not long out of there, and that might well have been a sensible question. But if he really meant just of Chinese ethnicity, then it was a very stupid question indeed.

July 14, 2014 at 06:12 PM · As Joyce suggested, you will find the Chinese are more than fully accepting Bach, Vivaldi and Handel, if you type in Chinese. Here is just one fine example. It was in China on an occassion of memorializing one of the most important Chinese violin pedagogues, Lin Yao Ji. Instead of playing something Chinese, Ning Feng performed Bach.



July 17, 2014 at 02:24 AM · Has anyone listenned to - Bach St Matthew Passion Erbama dich youtube - ??????

I narrowed my inquiry on 7/11/14 to Joyce Lin to the above. Just wondering if this site or

my computer is working? Charles

July 17, 2014 at 02:27 AM · Erbame dich. Charles

July 17, 2014 at 04:24 PM ·

July 17, 2014 at 09:05 PM · Yixi: Thank you for your input. I would consider all the artists you have presented, having their first training in China, to be truly international. That is with exception of Yo Yo Ma who was born in Paris with Chinese parents. But what a fascinating story abou Lin Yau Ji - unable to play the violin, or teach, until the end of the Cultural Revolution in the mid 1970's. What a remarkable revolution since, with all the brilliant artists from China in the world today. The same might be said of the revolution in violin making in China and elsewhere during the past 20 years or so. After all, the creators of string instruments were influenced by the same forces as the creations of composers during that time. But I wonder if I will ever hear a performance of the St Matthew Passion from China? Or at least Erbame dich? These works are universal and apply to all mankind, irrespective of politics, religion or media hype. My opinion and hope is that it will only be a mattter of time before these works will be presented in China, with modern insturments and baroque presentations. Best regards, Charles

July 18, 2014 at 09:48 PM · Today I visited Handel's tomb in Westminster Abbey. Admiring tourists there from all over the goobe.

July 18, 2014 at 10:26 PM · Yes, there is a gold mine of choral works, as well as instrumental, by Handel from Dixit Dominus to Messiah. Charles

July 21, 2014 at 10:56 PM · I have been trying to find among Vivaldi's operas, (49 operas written by Vivaldi according to Professor Robert Greenberg, SF Conservatory of Music), which Bach may have used for his magnificent Erbame dich. This is the only one I've found so far - with two violins alternating with soprano and alto.

Antonio Vivaldi: Aria [Soprano] Zeffiretti che sussurrate (RV 749.21)

Professor Greenberg also presents Vivaldi in lectures 13-16 in his Great Courses volume Bach and the High Baroque, as well as lectures 25-28 featuring his brilliant and scholarly presentation of the St. Mathew Passion. Charles

July 22, 2014 at 02:09 PM · Charles seems to have a great passion for St. Mathew Passion and wonders if the rest of the world, specifically China, is equally enthralled. A quick look at Wikipedia's St. Matthew Passion Discography shows only one non-western performance - by the Bach Collegium of Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki. The majority of the singers are western.

Though instrumental music faces no national barrier, choral music unfortunately encounters acute language barrier in the East. This does not preclude the popularity of the instrumental music of Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and others in the East. Indeed, the massive production of affordable instruments in China has allowed millions of young people in China, and the rest of the world, to practice, perform and appreciate and music of these great Masters. This, in no small measure, is the contribution of China to the world of music.

By the way, I quite like the latest digital youtube performance of St. Matthew Passion by Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle and Peter Sellars.

July 22, 2014 at 08:01 PM · Dear Tong Ngiam: Thank you so much for your thoughtful and comprehensive approach to this subject - Bach St.Matthew Passion Erbame dich youtube -

You are well qualified to comment on this subject with your interest in history, in music and the conditions in China and elsewhere in the far east. As an amateur, and fledgling historian, as well as violin maker,, I am only asking questions that have preoccupied me while suffering a miserable ailment this past 4 weeks -shingles or herpes zoster. Amazing the power and utility of music therapy! I am not however the only one who loves Bach's supreme masterpiece. But how could people in China love this work without hearing it performed live, on dvd, cd or you tube? Is language the primary reason for this? Could you translate German to Chinese? What would this work sound like? Could you start with Peter's lament - Erbame dich - have mercy? My favorite interpretation is the 1971 Richter performance. What a lovely aria with violin and alto - to me the heart of the St Matthew Passion. Many thanks for your contribution. Charles

July 24, 2014 at 03:13 AM · Charles,

My sympathy to you for the acute pain you are now suffering. It explains a lot why you are particularly attracted to Erbarme dich of St. Matthew Passion. The deep melancholy of the singing, accompanied by haunting violin, must be quite soothing to you.

I have used the Chinese search engine Baidu and searched for what you wanted. The following is a performance that you you may find wanting, but a good effort from a group of non-German singers.

July 24, 2014 at 05:11 AM · Tong:

The brief selection of the St Matthew Passion conducte by Hellmuth Rilling and sung in Chinese - by two large choirs and a childrens choir, as well as two orchestras of modern instruments, and Chinese soloists was marvelous and solves the problem of language - German vs Chinese. Nothing is lost in this great Bach work sung in Chinese. Prof Greenberg focused on the language used in the great Bach as well as other Baroque masterpieces possibly not being suitable. I hope I do not take up too much space here but I have several questions.

1. Is the complete performance available on baidu, or other search engine, and can it be made available to the rest of the world?

2. You have in your writings focused on the teaching of science, technology, and economics in China compared to the "soft options" which includes the arts and music, drama.

3. The notable exception is the great accomplishments in musical performance and violinmaking since the end of the Cultural Revolution, which we both have noted.

4. As an historian do you not think that the Baroque era from 1600 to the High Baroque 1700-1750 deserves a lot of study, especially those who

perform and teach music?

5. Could the Chinese produce Baroque violins, violas, cellos, etc along with Baroque bows? (An economics question)

6. With all the horrible things that people are confronted with in the world today, could not the above contribute to a resolution of some of the misery.

7. Is there a field of music therapy in China and the far east?

(By the way My herpes zoster misery has been largely controlled by anti-viral medication, good music and I am very fortunate in having a good M.D., a wife who was an RN at Sutter Coast Hospital and a daughter who worked at Stanford Univ. Hospital. So I am very fortunate indeed.)

There have been many horrible times in the past but if only 25 years passed before the great interpretation in 1971 of the St Matthew Passion by Richter is produced in the same country, then there is indeed always hope for better times. Glad you liked Erdame dich. You have made my day. Best regards, Charles

July 26, 2014 at 11:58 PM · Tong Ngiam: Thank you again for making the brief selection of the St Matthew Passion sung in China available to all of us. google - - Hopefully the full performance will become available to us in the US and around the world. I also hope that some of the questions I asked will come forth, including who and what forces were behind this performance?

Those interested may google - Rilling Master Class:The Conductors Craft - This presents Helmuth Rilling's comprehensive and operatic knowlege about ever note in the score. I noticed that all members of both choirs, members of both orchestras, and soloist had bound scores, but not the conductor. I had wondered who produced the scores in Chinese, since the orignal scores were in German. Since Rilling has been fluent in English, but not presumable Chinese, I assume he worked with someone who was fluent in English and Chinese to prduce the scores written in Chinese. I also assume that a conductors score is availabe for future perfomances of the St Matthew Passion in China. What a great contribution. Best regards, Charles

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