Organs and pianos on Gulangyu

Organs and pianos on Gulangyu

Doesn’t the above photo look more like England than China?

However, as the home of many Europeans and their churches, organs were brought to Gulangyu – the small island reached by ferry from Xiamen – in the mid 19th century, and pianos by the early 20th century.

Today on the island, both instruments have their own museums, courtesy of a rich Gulangyuan philanthropist who now lives in Australia, so we spent an engaging hour wandering around. Organs were described as the most complex man-made device until overtaken by the telephone exchange, and pianos are apparently the crystallisation of human history, world science & culture, and the labour & wisdom of mankind.

With over 100 western pianos on show, it was interesting to read that the great composers had their own favourite piano manufacturers. For instance, Liszt liked Bösendorfer, whilst Chopin preferred Broadwood. Now that all classical performances use the ubiquitous Steinway, maybe we have lost some of pianos’ musical diversity.

And of course Gulangyu was the right place to remind us of the number of prodigy pianists China has produced in recent decades. Many born and taught on this island.

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