Amnesty International's 50th anniversary was marked in January by a concert in London at which the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Luigi Dallapiccola's one-act opera Il Prigioniero (The Prisoner); music which the Guardian described as "associated with fiercely libertarian ideology". Last week the Philharmonia set off with Lorin Maazel on a Far East tour which includes three concerts in China. The tour is funded by banking group Barclays, currently the centre of a structured interest rate swaps scandal. Six days after the last concert in the Far East the Paradisal Players give a London benefit concert for Amnesty International conducted by Philharmonia viola player Sam Burstin and with soloists from the Philharmonia Orchestra.
There were more deaths in China under Mao Ze-Dong than under Stalin in Russia or under Hitler during the Holocaust. Thirty years later China's human rights record is a continuing cause for concern, as none other than Amnesty International explains:
In China, serious human rights violations continue to be committed. This includes torture, execution (in which China is world leader), excessive use of force in public order policing, repression of dissent and forced repatriation of asylum seekers without recourse to a refugee determination procedure. Foreign governments continue to fail in challenging China's disastrous human rights record, however, the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese human rights defender, Liu Xiaobo, may lead to some positive change in that regard.Leading artist agency Harrison Parrott represents the Philharmonia Orchestra and manages their current Far East tour. In 2008 Harrison Parrott became one of the first Western concert agents to open an office in China. In the same year I reported a last minute change to the Juilliard Orchestra's tour of China in which Chinese conductor Xian Zhang replaced African American maestro and Juilliard faculty member James DePreist. Xian Zhang is represented by Harrison Parrott.
Some things change, but classical music's reality distortion field remains intact.
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