Music from China

Klassik

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Many here have equipment made in China. With that in mind, perhaps it is time to feed some Chinese music through that equipment. ūüėČ
Here are two recent additions to Klassik's CD collection which Klassik believes are worth sharing here.

The first CD, Postcards from China, is a real winner. It is from the Cantonese-born composer Fu-Tong Wong and contains music for violin and piano. Although there are certainly some eastern melodies, some from folk songs, in the music, it uses mostly western harmonies. This mix of east and west allows this music to be easily consumed by anyone not really familiar with eastern music. There are some toe-tappers on this disc and here is one of those toe-tappers in the form of short dance pieces:

Drum Dance

Ok, so those are a fun listen, but what about something serious? Here are a few serious works which show cantabile writing for the violin:

Chinese Dance in E

Mongolian Folk Song

Ali Mountain Song

Full album on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kGce1JVsXCadGKWbIZIDqaOHzYGLhsgk0

It should be added that the music here is recorded exceptionally well. It was actually recorded about a decade ago at Houston's Rice University. Klassik reckons Rice University is an appropriate place to record Chinese music. ūüėú

The next album Klassik will share is performed by the same violinist as the above Fu-Tong Wong album, the Taiwanese Cho-Liang Lin. That said, the work in question on this album is an orchestral piece by the Beijing-born composer Nai-Chung Kuan. Specifically, the work is a programmatic violin concerto, Memory of Mountain, which was inspired by the scenery and culture in the Alishan Mountains of Taiwan. The work was originally composed in 1991 for the Chinese violin-like instrument, the banhu. Kuan adopted the work for violin in 2016 and that is what we hear on this performance. The orchestra is a 'Chinese orchestra'. This is to say that the orchestra uses a combination of Chinese and western instruments.

Since the work features some Chinese instruments which might not be well-known to western listeners, it's worth reading the liner notes so one knows what instruments they are hearing in the orchestra. With this being a Naxos release, the liner notes are fully available on the Naxos website. The liner notes also has details from the composer about what the music is more or less describing: https://www.naxos.com/mainsite/blurbs_reviews.asp?item_code=8.574180&catNum=574180&filetype=About%20this%20Recording&language=English#

Klassik will post the second movement from the concerto, The Train in the Mountain Forest. This movement is a bit of a mini-concerto itself with a colorful intro and conclusion which will certainly invoke thoughts of a train. In between is a wonderful slow, lyrical part which certainly balances the raucous outer parts of the movement.


Full album on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m0tecqcZTd9djdxyJbNy3M6txe2kdNK5s

This sound quality on this recording is quite good. The disc has a couple of other works from another composer, Joel Hoffman, but Klassik found them to be rather mediocre. Maybe someone will like them, but the Kuan work is the reason to buy this disc in Klassik's opinion.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed this look at some music which is different, but not completely different.
 

Klassik

Well-Known Wammer
Wammer
Sep 21, 2018
1,576
1,959
133
Houston
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Here are a couple of works which are apparently somewhat popular in China, but are mostly unknown outside of China, The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto and The Yellow River Piano Concerto. These are both programmatic works, which seems common with Chinese works, and both works were composed by multiple composers. In both cases, they are 'western' enough with eastern melodies to be easily listenable to just about any classical music listener. In the case of the violin concerto, it was composed by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao when they were both students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in the late 1950s.

Wikipedia has a pretty lengthy article about the concerto so it's worth reading about the programmatic nature of the concerto. Also, as the article points out, although the work was written for western instruments, there have been arrangements written for Chinese instruments, such as the erhu (two-stringed bowed instrument referred to as the 'Chinese violin'). Klassik will post links to the work as it was intended and one arranged for erhu as well just so one can get a taste for the difference. Of course, some performances will use more Chinese instruments in the orchestra as well.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_Lovers'_Violin_Concerto

Version for violin (original):

Arrangement for erhu and Chinese orchestra:

As for the The Yellow River Piano Concerto, the list of composers who contributed to it is quite long: Wanghua Chu, Chengzong Yin , Fei-sheng Xu , Li Hong Sheng , Shucheng Shi , and Zhuang Liu. :oops:

The concerto is based the Yellow River Cantata by Xian Xinghai. Here again, Wikipedia has a good description of the work: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_River_Piano_Concerto

Klassik will post here the final movement of the four movement concerto, IV. Defend the Yellow River:

Full CD of the two concertos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l5kM5HhAnEz8WiPw19Nm91p8WTpC0GMO8