Fri, May 25, 2012
Lifestyle > Society > Beijing Welcomes You--Decent Foreigners

A cellist's swan song no cause for encore

2012-05-25 07:51:27 GMT2012-05-25 15:51:27(Beijing Time)  China Daily

Russian cellist Oleg Vedernikov has quickly become the most famous foreigner in China because of his recent performance - not onstage but rather on a train from Liaoning province's capital Shenyang to Beijing. 

Vedernikov was the Beijing Symphony Orchestra's principal cellist until he was sacked on May 21 - a week after he put his feet up on the seat of a woman passenger in front of him and verbally abused her in Chinese when she confronted him. 

A passenger recorded video of the incident and posted it online, where it garnered much attention. 

The video shows a policeman, who came to settle the dispute, inquire about Vedernikov's occupation. 

When he learned Vedernikov was a musician, he sarcastically said to the woman: "Let it be. He's an artist." 

The officer's words eased the tension a bit. His remark suggests artists are understood to behave differently. 

But the Beijing Symphony Orchestra doesn't think so. 

Although Vedernikov released a video of his apology afterward, the orchestra decided to fire him because he had "severely harmed the reputation of the orchestra". 

"Beijing Symphony Orchestra is an ambassador of advanced culture," the orchestra's music director Tan Lihua said in a statement. 

"All employees, including foreign musicians, need to abide by the laws of the land, traditional moral codes, as well as the orchestra's rules and regulations. Employees should behave in a civilized fashion both onstage and offstage, maintain the manners expected of artistes and consciously safeguard the image and reputation of the orchestra." 

With strong government support, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra has ambitious plans for this season. They include collaboration with a number of top-notch maestros like Christoph Eschenbach and Daniel Barenboim, and a joint gala concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in London on July 29 to celebrate the 2012 Olympics. 

It's natural the Beijing Symphony Orchestra doesn't tolerate Vedernikov's behavior when it's trying to build up its image as a world-class orchestra of China. 

People express different opinions online. 

Some believe the orchestra's decision to fire Vedernikov goes a bit too far, and his musicality and everyday behavior are separate issues. More people support the move, and some see Vedernikov as one of an increasing number of foreigners who harm Chinese society. 

Vedernikov's actions probably wouldn't cause much attention if he were Chinese. 

While foreigners aren't stared at as much as they were in big cities 30 years ago, they're still treated quite differently. 

On the one hand, foreigners often receive greater admiration when they do something normal for Chinese. On the other, when they fail to abide by the rules, they often meet more serious criticism - and, sometimes, nationalistic emotions. 

Unfortunately, it's the second case with Vedernikov. 

He'll be remembered in China more for his misbehavior than for his solo in Bao Yuankai's symphony Peking Opera in the orchestra's EMI recording. 

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