Posts Tagged “World Music”

Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern
Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble
Tsung Yeh, conductor
Zhang Weiliang, Artistic Director and xiao soloist
Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, NY
May 7th. 2012

The biggest thing I can say about the Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble‘s program at Alice Tully is this: For the first 5 minutes or so when they came out and played the first piece Lang Tao Sha, which was a traditional piece, I couldn’t write a thing. It was an incredible rush that made me more fully appreciate not only the music of China, but music at its best, for its organic healing abilities, and for sounds that force you to take the time to consider them.

This concert, titled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern was very much what it describes, very prominent-sounding folk music that served as Eastern statements from the Chinese ensemble that were alternated with their take on the music of living American composers, Victoria Bond and John Mallia, whose works were being premiered on this occasion. The notation of the Chinese instruments being different from our system, it made me wonder how they were going to pull it off. I believe they did.
Chinese-American composer Wenhui Xie also had a traditional sounding piece titled Less, but More that had its World Premiere at this concert.

Mallia’s piece titled Nodes was a very Schoenbergian cacophony of a work whose atonal identity revealed itself even through the Chinese instrumentation, but the debut of an updated version of Victoria Bond’s Bridges was a marvelous treat not only for its brightness and upbeat presence on its own terms, but also because even the Chinese are quite capable of playing orchestral Gershwin Jazz, as evidenced in the final section of the piece! I very badly wanted to isolate the erhu from the rest of the ensemble just to hear how bluesy this instrument suddenly sounded.

It should be noted that Chai Shuai, who played both the erhu and erxian in this concert, played marvelously and passionately. I remember when I saw Hilary Hahn once playing a piece, I used to remark that I saw smoke coming from the fiddle in a way of describing the intensity of her performance, but Ms. Shuai’s erhu was indeed producing smoke. You can make of that what you will.

The meeting of Chinese and Western instruments was something that provided great insight into two different camps of hard-working musicians. There was such pungency and intensity of both the Western cello and Chinese instruments such as the zheng and the pipa, and all of these at times provided a clearer folk-sense that Western classical music doesn’t always capture fathfully.

Although it had only been happening in the second half, Tsung Yeh, the ensemble’s conductor, gave the audience some wonderful and thoughtful introductions to the works and had the composers present walk up to the stage for bows.

Zhang Weiliang, who is both the Artistic director of the ensemble and a soloist of the xiao (vertical-end-blown flute), came out and performed Wild Geese in The Sandbank as if it was a field recording of the species. It was a very natural performance that won Mr. Weiliang gracious appeal.

Another memorable moment was the ensemble’s reading of the Peking Opera piece Deep Night, which featured both erhu and Beijing erhu, which had a much higher-end sound, and the two together created this incredibly tasty ethnic harmony in what was an exciting traditional piece that received the biggest reception of the night.

To have seen this beloved event where we were given the opportunity to hear the most exciting music from China played on the instruments of their country was something to be extremely proud of, and I have to say that seeing an erhu being played alongside a Western violin is something akin to seeing two living kindred spirits meeting for the first time and bonding for life.

Tsung Yeh’s listing on ArtsEverywhere.com

Comments 1 Comment »

Pictured: Chai Shuai

Performing a program entitled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern, including folk and Chinese Opera works as well as contemporary works by both Chinese and Western composers such as Xie Wenhui and Victoria Bond, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble (pronounced HWA SHA) makes their Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, May 7 at 7:30pm.

Founded in 1995, and currently touring the United States with performances in New York and Boston, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble of the China Conservatory has become one of the most dynamic and technically impressive chamber ensembles of China. Under the strong leadership of Professor Zhang Weiliang and Maestro Tsung Yeh, the ensemble has achieved international acclaim. Its musicians, who are mainly young conservatory teachers, have won numerous instrumental competition awards in China and abroad. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese folk music and Chinese opera music to contemporary Chinese and international classical music. The ensemble has recorded several CDs and has performed in the United States, France, Portugal, Australia, and in Asia and Africa. For this performance, the program will feature six world premieres commissioned by the ensemble for this US tour.

The Program includes:

Lang Tao Sha (Traditional)
Feng Qiu Huang, by Liu Qing (World Premiere)
Five Impressions, by Gao Ping (World Premiere)
Wild Geese in the Sandbank (Traditional)
Graceful, by Wang Dan Hong (World Premiere)
Nodes, by John Mallia (World Premiere)
Deep Night (Traditional Chinese Opera)
Less, but More, by Xie Wen Hui (World Premiere)
Bridges, by Victoria Bond (World Premiere arrangement for this ensemble)

Victoria Bond talks about her piece Bridges and its newly expanded arrangement:

“Bridges is something I wrote for John Yeh, clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony. He is of Chinese ancestry, born in this country, and he and I have known each other ever since we were in school together. He also had an ensemble that was composed of both Western and Chinese instruments, so I wrote it orignially for him, for quartet–clarinet, bass clarinet, erhu, and pipa. Then, when I got a request from the China conservatory, I made an expanded arrangement so that now it encompasses several other Chinese instruments such as ediza (another flute) and a number of western instruments–violin, cello, piano and percussion, which consists of both Western and Chinese percussion instruments. Even though the title is really a philosophical one, bridging East and West, I decided to base it on several real bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Stone Bridge in China, and a railroad trestle bridge, and the story behind that is that 2 of the Chinese instruments, the erhu and the pipa, sound to me like banjo and fiddle, and it reminded me of a connection to American bluegrass and country music. It uses both American folk and Chinese folk music which are both largely related through the pentatonic scale, so making a merger between those two musics was not that far-fetched, both because of the timbre and of the nature of the music itself.”

Performers include: Huang Mei (guqin); Wang Yidong (Chinese percussion); Mark Baekbum Yee (cello); Chai Shuai (erxian & erhu); Qiu Ji (zheng); Ge Yong (pipa); Chen Yue (flute); Wu Huanghuang (yangqin); Huang Mei (ruan); Chen Yue (flute); Tomoya Aomori, Justin Doute (western percussion); Zhang Weiliang (xiao); Han Shi (violin), Eric Umble (clarinet), Sun Pei (piano). Tsung Yeh, conductor, Zhang Weiliang Artistic Director. Zhao Talimu, President of China Conservatory, serves as leader of this delegation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Comments Off

Composer/vocalist Sabrina Lastman, whose duo SoCorpo is also a great fixture of the performing arts, is involved in another wonderful project. The Sabrina Lastman Quartet (and they also perform as the Sabrina Lastman Trio sans the drummer) are offering up the tantalizing combination of jazz and world music. Their CD The Candombe Jazz Sessions has been issued this month and was accompanied by a CD release show at Joe’s Pub in NY. They will be also appearing on March 10th at Pregones Theater in the Bronx. Sabrina had a few minutes to spare for a small chat. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Comments Off