Conductor Darrell Ang
Cello Li-Wei Qin
Erhu Ma Xiaohui
Piano Yingdi Sun
Mezzo-Soprano Aoyun Gerile
QSO celebrates Chinese New Year — The Year of the Monkey!
This joyous program will feature a fusion of traditional Chinese music, great western masterworks and the contemporary genius of Qigang Chen’s dazzling Reflet d’un temps disparu (Reflection of a vanished time) for Cello and Orchestra.... Read more
Grassland Miss You
Introduction, Chant and Allegro for Erhu and Orchestra
Greeting Guests from Afar
Cello Concerto, Reflet d’un temps disparu
The Italian Girl in Algiers, Cruda sorte
Fountains of Rome
II. The Triton Fountain at Morn
III. The Fountain of Trevi at Midday
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is known to Chinese speakers, marks the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and falls between 21 January and 20 February, depending on the lunar cycle. It is celebrated all over the world by billions of native and diaspora Chinese, with festivities typically lasting for 15 days. The specific customs and traditions vary widely, which is to be expected in a culture comprising dozens of ethnicities and reaching back millennia, but in general the Spring Festival is a time spent with family and friends, enjoying food and exchanging gifts (especially red envelopes containing money), putting up auspicious decorations to ward off bad luck, and participating in rituals designed to invite prosperity and longevity, the most conspicuous of which are the lion dances and fireworks seen in most celebrations throughout the Chinese world.
This concert opens with the first of two folksongs that will be performed by Aoyun Gerile. Aoyun is honoured by her fans in China as a legendary mezzo-soprano and she is renowned for her sweet Inner Mongolian grassland songs.
The ancient, two-stringed erhu has traditionally been used to evoke wistful melancholy or meditative reflection, but in the two pieces featuring it in this concert, the full range of the instrument is explored and realised in a cutting-edge sound world. Yang Liqing’s Introduction, Chant and Allegro is an evocative, whimsical work which embraces and elevates the erhu within a palette which is at once Romantic and modern.
Franz Liszt composed Totentanz (Dance of Death), subtitled ‘Paraphrase on Dies irae’, on and off between 1839 and 1849 and then revised twice in the 1850s. It is his final, most concise and stylistically daring piece for piano and orchestra. Constructed in the form of a theme and variations, it casts the Gregorian plainchant Dies irae (Day of Wrath) from the Mass for the Dead in a demonic guise, though not without moments of spiritual levity.
In Horse Race, written in 1964 by the erhu virtuoso and composer Huang Haihuai, the instrument is pushed to the limit almost as if being ridden by a jockey. Inspired by Mongolian folk music and meant to capture the atmosphere of the horse race at the traditional Naadam festival, Huang imitates the galloping and neighing of the horse through a variety of tremolo, spiccato (jumping bow) and rapid-fire pizzicato techniques.
Reflet d’un temps disparu (Reflection of a vanished time), commissioned in 1995 by Radio France and first performed by Yo-Yo Ma with the National Orchestra of France under Charles Dutoit, is a soulful work full of virtuosic brilliance and haunting beauty. Veering from Impressionism, to Modernism, to Romanticism, Chen uses the techniques and idioms of Western music as a prism through which to glimpse ancient vistas and heavenly realms.
The cavatina ‘Cruda sorte!’ (Cruel fate!) comes from Rossini’s opera The Italian Girl in Algiers. Here the protagonist Isabella laments the danger she faces in attempting to rescue her lover Lindoro from the Bey of Algiers, but regains her composure in realising that the pirates she faces are only men and, therefore, no match for her wits.
Respighi in his Fountains of Rome of 1915-16 sought to capture the atmosphere of contemporary Rome, he was drawn to the music of the past if only by virtue of the antiquity of the city itself. ‘I wonder why no one has ever thought of making the fountains of Rome “sing”,’ he wrote to his wife, ‘for they are, after all, the very voice of the city’. In these movements, Respighi captures the sentiments and imagery suggested by the fountains at the hour in which their character ‘is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or their beauty appears most suggestive to the observer’.
Adapted from Douglas Rutherford © 2016