The notable Chinese musician and conductor, Li Delun, graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory where he studied the cello with I. Shevtzov and R. Duckson as well as music theory with W. Frankel. He organized the China Youth Symphony Orchestra with his schoolmate in 1942. His career as a conductor started in 1943. In 1946, with support from Zhou Enlai (who in 1949 became the first Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China) Li Delun took an assortment of donated musical instruments to the city of Yan-An and became the founder, instructor, and conductor of the Yan'an Central Orchestra, China's first professional symphony orchestra. When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Li Delun was nominated as the conductor of the China Central Opera House in Beijing.
From 1953 to 1957, Li Delun was enrolled by the Moscow Conservatory to further his study in conducting with Professor Nickolai Anosov, and conducted over 20 orchestras throughout the former USSR. In the fall of 1957, after graduating from the Moscow Conservatory, he returned to China and became Conductor and Artistic Director of the China Central Philharmonic Orchestra. He also appeared as conductor in Czechoslovakia, Finland, Japan, Korea and Cuba in the following years.
In 1977, during the political tumult of the late 1970’s, Li Delun bravely conducted L.v. Beethoven's 5th Symphony in a gala concert commemorating the 150th anniversary of L.v. Beethoven's death, which was a historical concert in China's musical history. The event marked China's first public performance of the piece since the 10-year long Cultural Revolution: it drew worldwide attention and signaled the reemergence of classical music in China. Ten years later, he conducted yet another impressive concert of which more than 810 musicians gathered together to open the Beijing Symphonic Festival. The China Central Philharmonic Society travelled the world performing under his baton. From 1985 to 1995, as a guest conductor, Li Delun toured Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Canada, USA, Soviet Union, Chinese Hong Kong and Taiwan. He guest-conducted numerous international orchestras, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Later he was Advisor of the China National Symphony Orchestra.
Delun devoted his life to the promotion of classical music in China. As an outstanding Chinese musician, he premiered many Chinese works. He also introduced many Chinese composers' works abroad including The Yellow River Cantata and Song of Mountain Forest.
In 1979, Maestro Li joined hands with American violinist Isaac Stern to perform the violin concertos of Mozart and Johannes Brahms. This historical musical collaboration was captured in the Academy Award-winning documentary “From Mao to Mozart”, which offered some of the first glimpses of a newly opening China. In the ensuing years, Li served as a bridge between musicians from China and abroad, performing with many world-class musicians including David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Paul Tortelier, Yo-Yo Ma, Fou Ts'ong, Bezrodnai, Tatiana Nikolayeva and Leonora Milà, as well as well-known Chinese pianists Loyi Wu, Liu Shikun, Yin Cheng zong and Shi Shucheng, violinists Lu Siqing, Xue Wei and Yu Linan, and many others.
Li Delun had been a member of the Jury at the Menuhin International Violin Competition in Paris in 1985 and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1986. He was the President of the Jury at the National Competition of Orchestra Conductors in China in 1993. He devoted himself to musical education, believing that classical music was not rarefied art for the upper class but rather something to be enjoyed by all. He was a tireless advocate for classical music and spent his free time lecturing on the subject of music enjoyment throughout China, presenting its beauty and sophistication with a simple and humorous delivery to university students and factory workers alike, making it appealing to the younger generation as well as the general public. He has given hundreds of lectures in more than 20 cities in China.
Li Delun was awarded the Honorary Prize of Conductorship of China in 1980. His professional and philanthropic work earned him rewards and accolades around the world. He was granted the Liszt Memory Medal by the Ministry of Culture and Education of Hungary in 1986, and was awarded the National Medal of Friendship by President Boris Yeltsin of Russia in 1997. He adjudicated for the International Tchaikovsky Cello Competition in Moscow in 1990 and the International Menuhin Violin Competition in Paris.
On October 19, 2001, Li Delun died at age 84 in a Beijing hospital, after having lived a full and meaningful life dedicated to music.