The Beijing Music Festival (BMF) is an annual music festival held in Beijing, China which has become one of the most well-known musical events in the world, drawing international attention. The festival presents about 30 concerts in October every year offering a wide variety of classical and jazz music including opera, orchestral, chamber, solo, and choral concerts. BMF also gives prominence to music education and community engagement offering free children's concerts and students' concerts, as well as master classes which draw about 6,000 music students, teachers, and spectators. It prides itself in presenting both Western and Chinese music alike.
Notable performers that have appeared at the festival include Martha Argerich, Pinchas Zukerman, Jean Yves Thibaudet, Emmanuel Ax, Murray Perahia, Maxim Vengerov, Christoph Eschenbach, Tan Dun, Kathleen Battle, Jose Carreras, Sarah Chang, Augustin Dumay, Valery Gergiev, Mischa Maisky, Krzysztof Penderecki, Issac Stern, Melvyn Tan, Fou Ts'ong, the Kodaly Quartet, and the New London Consort.
The current President and Artistic Director of BMF is world-renowned Chinese conductor, Maestro Long Yu.
Beijing Music Festival is a non-profit organization which was founded in 1998 by the current Artistic Director, Long Yu, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Culture of China and the Beijing Municipal Government. The festival has presented numerous historical performances such as the China premiere of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 (2002), the Asian premiere of Alban Berg's opera, Lulu (2002); Guo Wenjing's operas, Ye Yan (2003) and Wolf Club Village (2003); and the China premiere of Ricard Wagner's complete Ring Cycle (2005). The festival encourages the production of both Western and Chinese contemporary music presenting premieres and commissions by composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Philip Glass, Guo Wenjing, Ye Xiaogang, Tan Dun, and Howard Shore. BMF was among the first organizations in China to commission new works by Chinese composers as well as foreign composers, which has laid a strong base for international cultural exchange.
The theme of BMF's 19th festival is "Musical Legacy and Innovation," and is to be held from October 9-29, 2016. The 30 scheduled opera, symphony, vocal recital, and chamber music performances will kick off with the opening concert by China NCPA Orchestra and Chorus led by Lü Jia, which marks the first collaboration between NCPA and BMF. The festival will also present the Chinese premiere of Benjamin Britten's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' directed by Robert Carsen as a tribute to the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare. This will launch the five-year planned collaboration between BMF and Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Another highlight of the festival will be Mozart's masterpiece 'Don Giovanni' presented in an innovative way as an immersive theatrical experience with visual effects. Also playing to the innovative theme, BMF will present a 3D mini opera called 'Blank Out' by Dutch composer, Michel van der Aa. On the other side, the festival will present the legacy of the complete symphonic works of Tchaikovsky. As per tradition, the festival will also present children's concerts, master classes, lectures, and weekend family activities.
BMF's 18th festival, held from October 8–24, 2015, included 18 performances by artists from over 30 countries and regions. The theme was "Revel in Romance" and focused on monumental works on opposite sides of the Romantic music spectrum - Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. Highlights included conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste leading the WDR Orchestra in the ambitious Brahms 4 Plus 4 Project (four concertos and four symphonies) and Gustav Kuhn leading Tirol Festival Erl in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and Tristan und Isolde.
As part of its commitment to the ongoing cultivation of classical music, BMF has commissioned many works.
In commemoration of its 10th anniversary, BMF commissioned a second version of Krzysztof Penderecki's Symphony No. 8. This version is notable with its inclusion of an anonymous 15th-century Chinese poem and is 30 minutes longer than the original work. The commissioned version premiered on October 24, 2007 by the China Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its composer.
BMF also co-commissioned Zhou Long's first opera, Madame White Snake, with Opera Boston, which marked the first collaboration between BMF and an American opera company. The work is based on the illustrious Chinese folklore of the same name. It premiered first in Boston by Opera Boston on February 26, 2010 and then in China on October 27, 2010 during the 13th Beijing Music Festival. The premiere featured Male Soprano, Michael Maniaci; Soprano, Ying Huang; Tenor, Peter Tantsits; Bass, Dong-Jian Gong; and the China Philharmonic Orchestra under Daye Lin. The work later received a 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Pulitzer officials described the piece as "a deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West."
Additionally, the BMF Arts Foundation commissioned Howard Shore's Ruin and Memory, a concerto for piano and orchestra written for and premiered by Lang Lang with the China Philharmonic conducted by Long Yu on October 11, 2010. The three-movement work was written in celebration of Frederic Chopin's 200th anniversary. Shore commented "The piece is really my musical reflection of Chopin’s time and the life he lived. The title captures a bit of Chopin’s life, about where he came from and the world he lived in, and what became of him when that world no longer existed."
BMF also commissioned the opera, Song of Farewell by Ye Xiaogang, and gave the world premiere during the closing concerts of the 13th festival, October 30 and 31, 2010. The work fuses Peking Opera and Western Opera with its traditional Chinese staging and Puccini-like score. The work is based on the Chinese film Farewell My Concubine.
With a focus on music education and community, BMF partners with the Central Conservatory of Music to hold master classes for music students with such renowned musicians as Isaac Stern, Ken Nagano, Fou Ts'ong, Mo Hualun, Warren Mok, Melvyn Tan, Jian Wang, and the Kodaly Quartet. They also hold free children's concerts, pre-performance lectures, and student concerts to make music more accessible to all.
The artistic committee currently includes:Gao Jianjin, Dean of Music Education at Central Conservatory of Music
Lang Lang, pianist and Founder of Lang Lang International Music Foundation
Li Liuyi, Stage Director
Li Nan, President of China Philharmonic Orchestra and Vice Chairman of Poly Cultural Group
Wang Cizhao, President of Central Conservatory of Music
Xu PeiDong, Composer and Vice Chairman of CFLAC, Vice Chairman of Chinese Musicians Association
Song Tu, Program Director of Beijing Music Festival Arts Foundation （Secretary-General since 2008）