This is a delightful book. It opens up a Cultural arena much neglected in scholarship on China. Nine engagingly narrated chapters take us through the history of Sino-foreign musical contact since the late 19th century, with one digression. The book follows the life story of three important institutions (the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra, the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory) and three important men: violinist Tan Shuzhen, who was the first Chinese to join the orchestra in colonial Shanghai: conductor Li Delun, who was trained in Moscow and managed to serve the government before, during and after the Cultural Revolution: and composer He Luting, one of the most outspoken protagonists in China's music world and long-time principal at the Shanghai Conservatory. The authors' approach of choosing "white elephants" to present the history of classical music in China, although unfashionable since Jauss, brings much cohesion and structural elegance to the volume.
The book is at its best when using material from interviews conducted by the authors. Based on this evidence, the book comes to one important conclusion: contact between Chinese and foreign musicians in China was generally not antagonistic, either before or after 1949....
The authors have done a beautiful job in telling their story. They must be lauded for having gone through a great variety of sources including contemporary newspaper articles, propaganda magazines, Party documents, as well as films, recordings and some of the very recent, and mostly biographical, secondary literature on the subject published in China. ...There is much to be learned from this book…. --CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS The China Quarterly - 2005
A very rich study of China, Rhapsody in Red not only focuses on Western classical music, but also covers the events related to the importation of Western culture to China, from Matteo Ricci in the Ming dynasty to the present craze for building opera houses and symphony orchestra halls in Shanghai, Beijing and other big cities. Well informed and engagingly written, the book is a real treat for those who are interested in China and music in general.
Readers will be amazed as well as impressed with the depth of analysis and informative details in the book. ...
Yu Sin Wah, The Chinese University of Hong Kong --The China Journal No. 55, Jan 2006