What Was Once Forbidden
In the Wall Street Journal, Ilaria Maria Sala profiles composers Guo Wenjing and Chen Qigang, who are being featured at Carnegie Hall with others of their generation as part of the Modern Voices: Class of 1978 festival. From the WSJ interview with Guo:
“When the Cultural Revolution started, in 1966, and the Eight Revolutionary Operas [created by Jiang Qing, aka Madame Mao] became required propaganda work in every city and province, each local Cultural bureau had to look for children with a suitable class background to receive musical training to perform them. This is how music arrived at my doorstep. Everything else was banned, of course, but our teacher could only use what he knew to instruct us: which is how I first came to play Handel, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven,” he says, playing an imaginary violin in the air, waiving his cigarette up and down while doing so. “I loved it,” he says, recalling that “it was the time of the great Sino-Soviet split, so Russian music was even more forbidden than the Western composers. On stage, we could only play revolutionary music. For study and rehearsals, however, we learned through the classical masters. We were children, and were quite fond of revolutionary music, actually! And if you consider that my siblings were at work in the fields and in the factory as I played, I had a pretty good time,” he exclaims. Then he turns very serious, and shaking away his childhood recollections while chasing away his own cigarette smoke, he says: “Those were complicated years, but do not get me wrong. The Cultural Revolution was a tragedy. A disaster.”
See also a Los Angeles Times article about the generation of composers who graduated from the Central Conservatory in 1978.