For many years now, the mdw and the Chinese Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in Beijing have maintained close ties via artistic cooperation of numerous types. And as part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Austria and the People’s Republic of China, the two universities of music staged the hybrid Cloud Festival in Vienna and Beijing from 7 to 11 November 2021.
This festival opened with a celebratory concert at the Wiener Konzerthaus featuring star pianist Lang Lang and the Webern Symphonie Orchester conducted by Philipp Jordan. Since the originally planned participation by Chinese conductor Yu Feng and CCOM’s China Youth Symphony Orchestra in this concert proved impossible due to the quarantine measures currently in effect in the People’s Republic of China, the rest of the festival was ultimately realised in a hybrid form.
The programme’s individual components took place in Vienna and in China, being streamed live to the respective other city and/or recorded live and then made available on the websites of both universities of music.
Christopher Hinterhuber, head of the mdw’s Department of Piano, taught selected CCOM students in Beijing in a live Zoom master class held on the festival’s first day. The second day then saw Yu Feng of the Central Conservatory give an online conducting master class in which he taught mdw conducting majors with help from the Pro Arte Orchestra in Vienna and the CCOM Symphony Orchestra in Beijing.
Alongside this artistic exchange, a theoretical and scholarly programme unfolded: the impulse lecture by mdw Rector Ulrike Sych, entitled “The Societal Relevance of Music”, and CCOM President Yu Feng’s lecture on the training and promotion of young Chinese talents continue to be accessible (along with other lectures from the festival) at mdw.ac.at/cloud-festival.
Cooperation between the two universities also made an initial foray into the field of cultural management as part of the Cultural Management Forum, a lecture and discussion series held in cooperation with the mdw’s Department of Cultural Management and Gender Studies (IKM).
The lectures by Matthias Naske (Intendant of the Wiener Konzerthaus) and Christoph Becher (Orchestra Director of the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra) were each streamed live from the mdw to Beijing. And in the other direction, the talks given by the Chinese lecturers—including Zhao Tiechun, Assistant Director of the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing, and Li Xincao, Director of the China National Symphony Orchestra, were streamed (either live or recorded) at the mdw.
The IKM Talk with Dagmar Abfalter (IKM), Katharina Pfennigstorf (assistant head of the IKM and head of the mdw’s Advanced Studies in Cultural Management programme), and Yao Yao, this programme’s first Chinese graduate, was entitled “Built to Last – 45 Years of Cultural Management Education at IKM” and focused specifically on the mdw’s cultural management-related training and professional development offerings.
It was then with a concert by the CCOM Symphony Orchestra and soloists under the baton of Yu Feng, recorded at the CCOM Opera Hall in Beijing, that the Cloud Festival ultimately concluded after four intense and exciting days.
Despite the pandemic-related challenges involved in its realisation, the Cloud Festival succeeded not just in strongly signalling the close connection between the mdw and CCOM as well as (diplomatic) relations between Austria and China, but also in providing an important impulse for further cooperation between these two countries and institutions in the future.