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Meeting across Nine Millennia of Time

Turkey makes an interesting start of our Silk Road journey in music as it has been an interesting hub in world history, geography, culture and trade down the ages. The ancient sounds should make exciting listening. For this concert, we have the guyue, or 'bone pipe' of nine millennia ago, performed by Liu Zhengguo of China, the exotic instruments of the Turkish ensemble of Kudsi Erguner which would transport us to the legendary land of Persia, and the timeless sheng of Wu Wei.

 

 

Guyue, a pipe instrument dating nine millennia and excavated in the Neolithic site in Jiahu, can now be heard:

Seven-hole Guyue (Excavated in 1986, first lot of artefacts of the site) Demonstration

Two-hole Guyue (Excavated in 2001, second lot of artefacts of the site) Demonstration

 

Six-hole Guyue (Excavated in 1986, first lot of artefacts of the site)     Primitive Safari

Qian Zhaoxi 

Guyue: Liu Zhengguo

Xiaodi: Choo Boon Chong

 

Wind Music - Double-tube Bamboo Pipe      Three Variations on a Plum Blossom Melody 

Arr. by Hui Cheung-wai (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / Premiere)

Double-tube Bamboo Pipe: Liu Zhengguo

Sheng: Wei Shen-fu

 

Turkish Classical and Sufi music

I. Prelude in the Makam Mahur

II. Prelude in the Makam Huseynî

III. Prelude in the Makam Acem Aşiran

Performed by: Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

 

Traditional Turkish Instrument and Orchestra           Central Plains Connections - From the Steppes to the Seraglio

Kudsi Erguner and Chew Hee Chiat (Commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)

Part A: Genghis Khan, A Voyage to the East and to the West

Part B: Caravan of Hope

Part C: Silver Tree Fountain

Part D: Caravan of Fascination

Part E: Memories for the Future

 

Fantasy for Sheng and Chinese Orchestra     Silk Road - The Travels of Marco Polo 

Enjott Schneider (Commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)

I. Towards Smarkand / Reflection I: Marco's Dream

II. Adventure in the Pamir-Mountains / Reflection II

III. Crossing the Taklamakan / Reflection III

IV. Kublai Khan – Mongolian Conqueror / Reflection IV

V. Beautiful Hangzhou / Reflection V

VI. Farewell & Finale

Sheng: Wu Wei

 

Guyue, Traditional Turkish Instrument and Orchestra           Chance Encounter       

Chan Ming-chi (Commissioned by the HKCO / World premiere)

Section I: Echoes from Time Immemorial

Section II: The Encounter of Blue-and-White Porcelain with Blue Eyes

Section III: My Heart is Spinning

Section IV: Happy Volleyball

Guyue: Liu Zhengguo

Dizi: Sun Yongzhi

Traditional Turkish Instrument: The Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

 

 

Meeting across Nine Millennia of Time

22/2/2019 (Fri)

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Guyue and Double-tube Bamboo Pipe: Liu Zhengguo

Sheng: Wu Wei

Performed by: The Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

Ney and Direction: Kudsi Erguner

Kemençe: Neva Özgen 

Kanun: Hakan Güngör 

Tanbur: Murat Aydemir 

Oud: Giannis Koutis 

Tanbur with bow: Michalis Cholevas 

Percussion: Fahrettin Yarkin 

 

An RTHK Production

The Ten Bhūmis

Avatamsaka Sutra is a major Mahayana Buddhist text revered for its extensive revelation of the teachings of the Buddha.

 

The discourse took place following a solemn and monumental event: the enlightenment of the Buddha. There under the Bodhi Tree (the Tree of Awakening), the Buddha began teaching the many bodhisattvas (buddhas-to-be) who had humbly gathered at the scene. The ambience was made all the more majestic as the Buddha was surrounded by numerous colourful flowers. They were transformed from the many wholesome deeds the Buddha performed when he was still a bodhisattva. This beautiful scene is the origin for Flower Ornament Scripture or Flower Garland Sutra or other poetic titles that some English versions of the sutra have adopted.

 

Among the teachings was the Ten Bhūmis (also known as stages, grounds or levels) which bodhisattvas progress through in order to arrive at enlightenment to become buddhas. An entire chapter in the sutra describes the qualities to be attained or discarded in each stage, making the Ten Bhūmis an important reference for practitioners of Mahayana Buddhism. 

 

The themes of the Ten Bhūmis in turn are: 'Joy', 'Freedom from Defilement', 'Further Enlightenmen', 'Brilliant Wisdom', 'Mastery of Utmost Difficulties', 'Manifesting Prajna-wisdom', 'Attaining Calm', 'Finest Discriminatory Wisdom' and 'Dharma Cloud'.

 

These spiritual progressions are the theme of the special performance by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Sections from Shaolin, a work by Emmy Award composer Nathan Wang, have been selected and arranged by various composers to portray each Bhūmi. The original Western-style music has been adapted for Chinese musical instruments by leveraging the gripping power of percussion and expressive qualities of strings and other instruments to produce a riveting, tranquil and solemn experience.

 

1. Pramuditā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Joy)

2. Vimalā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Freedom from Defilement)

3.Prabhākarī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Further Enlightenment)

4. Arciṣmatī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Brilliant Wisdom)

5. Sudurjayā-Bhūmi  (The Bhūmi of Mastery of Utmost Difficulties)

6. Abhimukhī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Manifesting Prajna-wisdom)

7. Dūraṃgamā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Proceeding Afar)

8. Acalā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Attaining Calm)

9. Sādhumatī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Finest Discriminatory Wisdom)

10. Dharmameghā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of the Dharma Cloud)

 

5G 4K Live Streamed Concert  

Universe in a Flower

TSM x HKCO x 3HK13/11/2021

Tsz Shan Monastery

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Haofei Ji (Flying Brush)
Composed by Law Wing-fai

Chinese painting and calligraphy are elegantly ethereal, with great versatility and variations in form. A piece of paper is a boundless world, where the brushstrokes - dark, light, wet or dry - change in the rhythm of nature. The ink spreads and runs on the paper, like music overflowing, filled with a rhythm, subtle and delicate, that is all its own.

 

It is exactly the charm of this art form that has inspired the composer to write this piece. The sound and timbre of the Chinese orchestra are, to him, the lines and dots of Chinese calligraphy and painting, and the runaway emotions as expressed in ink-wash.

 

The atmosphere is simple, almost minimal. There are three sections played without a break, but each with a different programme:

 

Section 1, 'The Setting': the music is free-flowing, and straight from the heart. Musicality, in its various forms, to the composer is the spirit and the technique of writing to the calligrapher. The rapport is thereby established. 

 

Section 2, 'The Pure Tone': like echoes beyond the painting and calligraphy frame, it is an unhurried review of the aesthetic lines.

 

Section 3, 'The Merging Colours': like the gradual merging of the various hues in nature, there are moments of interplay or blending between different instruments, in a representation of perfect harmony.

 

- Law Wing-fai

 

*Commissioned and premiered by the HKCO on 27th August 1999 at the 'Paint with Music' Concert at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall, conducted by Yan Huichang, live calligraphy by Jat See-yeu.

 

 

Picturesque Music – A Yuan Dynasty Painting Reinvented

19/9/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Summer Kaleidoscope

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) presents this new composition, "Summer Kaleidoscope", to commemorate the Beginning of Summer. It is the finale of the HKCO's "24 Solar Terms" music video series. 

 

The ancient Chinese knowledge system of Solar Terms categorises different periods of the year according to the sun's motion. The Beginning of Summer embodies a marked rise in temperature, the onset of rainy and stormy season, and nature entering into vibrant growth. This theme of diversity and change is expressed in "Summer Kaleidoscope" through variations in tempos and in the textural tonal contrasts of the different musical instruments. These features are further amplified by the MV's use of macro filming on the musical instruments. Another characteristic of the composition is the adaptation of well-known phrases from traditional music of southern China and ancient origins.

 

As the finale of the 24 Solar Terms MV series, this MV pays homage to Chinese tradition by incorporating visual elements from other MVs in the series as well as the HKCO's Chinese Festivals and 24 Solar Terms MV series. Please visit www.hkconetconcerthall.com to revisit these MVs.

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer & Music Producer: Ng King Pan

Director: Cheung Kit Bong

Eco-Erhu: Xu Hui

Eco-Gaohu: Wong Sum Ho

Eco-Zhonghu: Li Xiaoding

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Eco-Bass Gehu: Li Wei

Yangqin: Lee Meng-hsueh

Zheng: Fu Zifei

Soprano Souna: Ma Wai Him

Alto Suona: Kwan Lok Tin

Percussion: Luk King Bun, Liao Yi-ping, Leung Ching Kit

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' – Luk Kin Bun (Fire)

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' turns the performance of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) into a journey for foodies. A virtuoso of the HKCO (Ma Wai Him, Chen I-ling, Xu Hui, Zhao Taisheng and Luk Kin Bun) appears as chef in each episode and lines up the performances as a four-course meal. The Appetiser is a lighthearted lead-in to Chinese music, the Starter a small ensemble performance, the Main Course an orchestral performance, and the Dessert completes the experience with behind-the-scene clips.

 

The menu in each episode represents one of the five elements in the ancient Chinese philosophy of wuxing: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. They can be enjoyed individually or as a whole for a taste of the various instruments and characteristics of Chinese music.

 

Fire is the wuxing theme of this last episode in the series. Our chef is Luk Kin Bun, HKCO Principal Percussion, and he has prepared a meal that sizzles with rhythm and excitement. Luk and fellow HKCO percussionists begins with a delightful Starter playing Drama (excerpt), a contemporary trio for the cymbal. For Appetiser, Luk plays all the instruments in this composition of his own, When the Four Forms Become One. The Main Course recaps a concert performance by the HKCO on The Sun (The first movement of The Age of the Dragon) which expresses the theme of faith and perseverance. Watch how Luk and Huang Hsuan-ning manoeuvred among a variety of Chinese and Western percussion instruments to deliver a high energy performance. Lastly, the musical feast winds down with Dessert for an interesting look at the making of the MV.

2020 Hong Kong Drum Festival - Majestic Drums

The annual gala event for drummers is here again, at the Hong Kong Drum Festival!  

 

A rousing, heartening experience awaits! Come watch the drumming performances of multiple winner of previous Hong Kong Synergy 24 Drum Competition – Refiner Drums, the taiko drum team GEKKO from Hong Kong, and renowned percussionists Chau Chin-tung and Huang Hsuan-ning!

 

The Refiner Drums (Chapter One) Leung Ching-kit

 

The Yellow River Boatmen A Collective Work by the Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, with notation by Zhang Lie

Percussion: Refiner Drums

 

Kyotendochi Kenji Furutate  Arr. by Hubert Leung

 

Shin-Yatai Traditional Music Arr. by Hubert Leung

 

Zuii Hubert Leung

Taiko: GEKKO

 

Resonation Compiled and Arranged by Refiner Drums and GEKKO (World Premiere)

Percussion: Refiner Drums

Taiko: GEKKO

 

Yunluo Solo As the Molten Steel Runs Xu Jingxin, Li Zuoming and Huang Qiquan Arr.by Chin Kwok Wai

Yunluo: Huang Hsuan-ning

 

Percussion and Orchestra Mountainscapes Alfred Wong (Commissioned by the HKCO /World Premiere)

The first movement: Thousands of Rocks and Myriads of Valleys

The second movement: Eternal Spring

Percussion: Chau Chin-tung

 

Percussion and Orchestra Let the Thunder of Drums Roll VII.1020 Chew Hee Chiat

Audience perform with the artists and the HKCO

 

 

2020 Hong Kong Drum Festival

Majestic Drums

31/10/2020

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percussion: Chau Chin-tung

Percussion: Refiner Drums

Taiko: GEKKO

Yunluo: Huang Hsuan-ning

 

House programme:  https://bit.ly/3vWC2fS

 

100 Chinese Music Classics Select

Erhu Concerto No.1
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

This Concerto consists of three movements. The first movement is a vigorous Allegro con brio with a forceful theme composed of leaping dotted notes. The second theme full of anticipation towards the future is an inversion of the main theme. While the development section begins like a thunder storm, the recapitulation commences with a victorious declaration which is followed by a eulogistic passage, using the material of the second theme. Subsequently, the main theme is played by the erhu with harmonic in the higher register and the timpani in the lower register. The music then gradually accelerates and brings about a short coda.

 

The second movement can be regarded as a Nocturne. The first theme is rather gloomy, but the second theme appearing in the middle of the movement is a dance melody. Eventually, the two themes overlap in the recapitulation.

 

The third movement is an energetic allegro con brio. The main theme is developed from a very simple motif, composed of three notes using special rhythmic effect. The second theme is an elegant dance melody. The music ends with the retrospective appearance of the main theme of the first movement.

 

This composition in three movements is a standard concerto in which the first movement is written in sonata form, the second in ternary form and the third in sonata rondo form. The playing of the erhu solo in this music calls for consummate skill. It mingles with the orchestra producing a song in praise of youthfulness.

 

Kuan Nai-chung

 

* Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at 'Selections from the best Chinese Orchestral Works' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall in May 1988, under the baton of Kuan Nai-chung with erhu solo by Wong On-yuen.

 

 

Min Huifen & HKCO

9-10/3/2007

Tsuen Wan Town Hall Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Erhu: Min Huifen

Bumper Harvest Worship
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

Rites for a bumper harvest are part of the folk customs of Taiwan. The feastday may be called by different names, but the essential rituals are the same: with the advent of the celebrations, farmers would bring their work in the fields to a stop, brew wine, prepare the animals for the sacrifice, make glutinous dumplings, and set up the altars. On the day of the festival, people would gather at the village temple for the solemn ritual. They would make a camp fire, and dance round it holding their hands and stamping their feet as they sing. The ebullient mood would escalate as they sing and dance into the night. 

 

Among the annual festivals, the 'Fifth Year Ritual' is considered the most important. It is held every five years in late autumn, and can last for a whole month. 

 

In the music, the rousing festivities are described using a more innovative approach. The colourful and energetic scene is depicted by the rich passing notes and vivacious rhythms, incorporated with lengthened notes on the zheng.

 

* The music was premiered in August 1986 by the HKCO at the concert 'Parting at River Yi' held at Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, under the baton of Kuan Nai-chung, and was awarded CASH Golden Sail Most Performed Works Awards – Local Serious Work in 2009.

 

 

MADE in Taiwan

9-10/11/2018

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Liu Chiang-Pin

Gehu, Pipa, Sheng, Daruan and Orchestra Ambush from All Sides  Ancient Melody
Composed by
Arranged by Li Cangsang & China Magpie
Arr. and Orch. for Chinese Orchestra by Chew Hee Chiat

The Chinese traditional tune, Ambush from All Sides, gives an epic interpretation of the most famous battle in Chinese history between the states of Chu and Han. The earliest composition on this theme was collected in Pipa Scores, compiled by Hua Qiuping in 1818. The new arrangement for cello, pipa, sheng, guitar and Chinese Orchestra, based on the traditional tune, was premiered by the HKCO in November 2008 at the 'Yo-Yo Ma & HKCO – 2008 New Vision Arts Festival' concert in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, under the baton of Yan Huichang, with cello by Yo-Yo Ma, pipa by Li Hui, sheng by Wu Tong and guitar by Liu Lin. For this concert, the work is performed on the gehu, pipa, sheng and dagruan.


 

Liu Bang, Xiang Yu and the Terra Cotta Warriors

1/9/2018

Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Sheng: Chen Yi-wei

Daruan: Fung Yin Lam

Haofei Ji (Flying Brush)
Composed by Law Wing-fai

Chinese painting and calligraphy are elegantly ethereal, with great versatility and variations in form. A piece of paper is a boundless world, where the brushstrokes - dark, light, wet or dry - change in the rhythm of nature. The ink spreads and runs on the paper, like music overflowing, filled with a rhythm, subtle and delicate, that is all its own.

 

It is exactly the charm of this art form that has inspired the composer to write this piece. The sound and timbre of the Chinese orchestra are, to him, the lines and dots of Chinese calligraphy and painting, and the runaway emotions as expressed in ink-wash.

 

The atmosphere is simple, almost minimal. There are three sections played without a break, but each with a different programme:

 

Section 1, 'The Setting': the music is free-flowing, and straight from the heart. Musicality, in its various forms, to the composer is the spirit and the technique of writing to the calligrapher. The rapport is thereby established. 

 

Section 2, 'The Pure Tone': like echoes beyond the painting and calligraphy frame, it is an unhurried review of the aesthetic lines.

 

Section 3, 'The Merging Colours': like the gradual merging of the various hues in nature, there are moments of interplay or blending between different instruments, in a representation of perfect harmony.

 

- Law Wing-fai

 

*Commissioned and premiered by the HKCO on 27th August 1999 at the 'Paint with Music' Concert at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall, conducted by Yan Huichang, live calligraphy by Jat See-yeu.

 

 

Picturesque Music – A Yuan Dynasty Painting Reinvented

19/9/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa and Bowed-string Ink Spirit
Composed by Law Wing-fai

The title of this piece is derived from a painting of the same name by a Song Dynasty painter Liang Jie, which depicts a drunken immortal who has a carefree, robust personality. The composer is deeply inspired by the sense of contentment and unbridled emotions of the ancient painting. He is also greatly moved by the artistic state of mind translated through brush and ink that is unique to traditional Chinese painting. This gives rise to musical concepts and ideas which, through the media of the pipa and the orchestra, and modern compositional techniques, are used by the composer at will to create a mood that is suggestive of the genius of that ancient picture.

 

The structure of the work is straightforward and ideas are neatly grouped. Every movement begins with the pipa and the mood gradually evolves to represent changes in the sensitivity and reflections of the viewer of the picture. The contrast between movements, which are of different lengths, is strong. With a generally undulating shape, movements in the string section resemble the technique of ink washes on paper, which the Song painter uses in creating the picture. The ever-changing tone colours of the pipa resemble the painter's palette, and its rhythmic variations may be likened to his strokes. The end result is a picture in music and music in a picture. In this tonal picture there is free flow of emotions from one medium to another, and vice versa, and these emotions are generally uninhibited and strong. 

 

Ink Spirit was originally written for pipa and string quartet, and was premiered in October 1995. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra first performed the work in its Chinese orchestral version in February 1997.

 

- Law Wing-fai

 

* Arrangement commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at the '1997 Hong Kong Arts Festival Concert – Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra "Chinese Composers' Works Series" ' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on February 14, 1997, guest conducted by Chen Tscheng-hsiung, pipa by Wong Chi-ching.

 

The Silk Road Fantasia Suite

12/2004

Tsuen Wan Town Hall, Hong Kong

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Wong Chi-ching

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Endless Way
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

Although this cello concerto is entitled Endless Way, it is not programme music. The piece was completed in March, 1990, just before my 50th birthday. I spend my youth during the 1950s, when I looked forward to life and to the Revolution with such sanguine hopes. But it was followed by the devastating Cultural Revolution in the following decade. By the late 1970s, I resettled in Hong Kong, and for more than a decade, I had seen and experienced so much with the ways of the world. Yet all the time, my insistence on pursuing art and truth has not been compromised in the face of harsh reality. This cello concerto, therefore, is a picture of the 'road' I have taken for the first fifty years of my life. 

 

The music is in three movements. 

 

The first movement is in sonata form, opening with dissonance from the cello which is maintained stoically on a minor tonic chord played by the orchestra. This forms the first theme of the movement. 

 

It is followed by a romantic, warm and hopeful second theme. The first and second movements are played without pause. But towards the end of the first, the cello is interrupted by three consecutive augmented triads from the orchestra, and from this, the theme of the second movement emerges. It is inspired by a line in a ci poem by Jiang Baishi, which says, "Is there a reason for the turn of events in this world, with Man manipulating like shifting clouds?" It suggests a disappointment towards the ways of the world and his loathing of, and total contempt for, the vile and the mean character among us all. 

 

The theme of the third movement is adapted from that of the first, only the gloomy tone in minor key has changed into a brighter and more confident major key. It is a reaffirmation of values – those of the world as well as those of the self, after going through disappointment and bitter hardships. The music concludes with a resolute horn.

 

 

Kuan Nai-chung and His Classics 

24-25/4/2015

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Kuan Nai-chung

Cello: Chu Yi-bing

Percussion Concerto The Sun (The First Movement of The Age of the Dragon)
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

The dragon is a totem of the Chinese race, and the first year of the 21st century happens to be the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese horoscope. This happens, it is said, not once in a thousand years but once in three thousand years, and I am one of the lucky ones to witness this. A new millennium brings new hopes and expectations. As a composer, I think I would rather translate my hopes and expectations into music. 

 

The piece is in four movements. The first is The Sun - a symbol of light and heat and of faith and power. The second is The Moon - the watery moonlight is a reflection of the deepest feelings. The third is The Stars - twinkling and fascinating, they symbolise wit and hope and have brought wisdom to numerous sages. The fourth is The Earth - our mother and the home of all the people in the world. It is believed the Earth will get smaller and smaller in the new millennium while people's hearts will grow closer and closer to one another. I would count this as my only wish on the eve of the new age.

 

- Kuan Nai-chung

 

* Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at 'The Age of The Dragon' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall on 17th December 1999, guest conducted by Kuan Nai-chung. Only the First Movement is performed in this concert.

 

 

Recordings for 'Yidan Prize'

6/11/2020

Xiqu Centre Grand Theatre

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Erhu Concerto Red Plum Capriccio
Composed by Wu Houyuan

The subject of the piece is based on the theme song of the opera, Jiang Jie, called In Praise of the Red Plum. By way of analogy, the stamina of a noble soul that fights evil to the end and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for one's ideals are extolled. The music is in the following sections:

 

Prelude:

The strings present the musical image of a hero in a powerful prelude.

 

Introduction:

The bright sound of the dizi is like the warmth of the sun in deep winter.

 

Section I:

Moderate and graceful. The dialogue between a solo erhu and the pipa brings in the theme, and the mood is one of warmth and hope.

 

Section II:

Allegretto vivace. The vigorous rhythm and the spirited melody are developed on the main theme. It symbolises the spirit to forge ahead in pursuit of high aspirations.

 

Section III:

Sanban (free tempo). Passionate and high-spirited, a resolute mind in defiance of evil during adversity is described in a line from the original lyrics of the song, "trampling on ice for thousands of miles, not fearing the severe cold".

 

Section IV:

Grand and slow. As a conclusion to the whole piece, the music conveys the conviction that righteousness will triumph over evil. Temporary frustrations will lead to a bright future. Such a belief is expressed in the original lyrics, "Red plum flowers are in bloom, each unfolding in full glory. Myriads of them proudly raise their heads, their sweetness wafting to the sky above. It wakes up all the other flowers, to sing in praise of a new spring."

 

 

The Poignant Sounds of the Huqin – Liu Changfu & Liu Yang

25-26/4/2008

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Erhu: Liu Changfu

Ballad for Erhu The Parting of the Newly-weds
Composed by Zhang Xiaofeng & Zhu Xiaogu

The music is inspired by a ballad of the same title by the Tang poet, Du Fu. It is in three sections: (1) Meeting the Bride; (2) Disaster Struck; and (3) The Parting.

 

The background is set in the period of the 'An-Shi Rebellion' during the Tang Dynasty. The people suffer from the ravage of the rebellious soldiers and all men are conscripted to go to the frontier and defend the country. This includes the new bridegroom as well. He has to leave the morning after the wedding, and it is hard for the young couple. But the understanding wife reminds her husband of his duty to the Emperor and the Country, and tells him not to miss her but concentrate on his military mission. The integrity and open-mindedness of a woman in the olden days are vividly described in the music.

 

 

Huqin Festival of Hong Kong II 

Strings of the North and the South – Chinese Virtuosi in Concert

30-31/3/2001

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Liu Wenjin

Erhu: Min Huifen

Dance of the Yao Tribe
Composed by Liu Tieshan & Mao Yuan
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen

The music was originally for the orchestra. Later it was arranged into a folk ensemble with orchestration by Peng Xiuwen. It describes the rousing festivity of the Yao tribe when they happily celebrate a festival.

 

The first section describes how, as the night falls, people gather under the moon, all decked out in their best dresses and start beating the long drums. The gaohu plays the quiet and serene theme, depicting a young girl gracefully dancing. Soon the other girls join in the dance. Suddenly the alto sheng plays a robust and wild variation on the theme, as a group of young men now join the girls in the dance and are giving full vent to their high spirits.

 

In the second section, it shifts to 'D major' and to 3/4 time. The melody moves between cantabile and a sprightly rhythmic figuration, like two lovers telling each other of their love as they sing and dance. 

 

In the third section, which is a recapitulation, the music phrases become more sonorous and agitated, and the dialogue between the wind section and the orchestra turns into a quick repartee as more and more people join the girl leading the dance. There is increasing excitement until the music comes to a climatic close.

 

 

 

Maestro Peng Xiuwen – A Tribute

10-11/10/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Cantonese Tune In Celebration of the Good Times
Composed by Yau Hokchau
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen

A picture of life in times of peace and prosperity is depicted by the energetic and flowing tune. The lighthearted mood runs throughout. In the rearrangement, harmony is applied to the orchestration. The contrast in dynamics adds to the lively musical gestalt.

 

 

Maestro Peng Xiuwen – A Tribute

10-11/10/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

As the Moon Rises
Ancient Melody
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen

This symphonic work for Chinese orchestra won popular acclaim soon after it was premiered in 1960. Over the decades, it has been a concert repertoire for Chinese orchestras all over the world, including amateur Chinese music ensembles of sizable scale. Mr Chou Wen-chung, the famous Chinese-American musicologist, has also written an article on it. This is therefore a highly influential work in Chinese orchestral music. 

 

Based on a work of the same title in Hua's Notation for the Pipa, the music describes the beautiful scene of a world at peace under the bright moon – from the moment it rises from the sea in the east until it sinks behind the mountains in the west. Elegant lyricism alternates with robust passions, and displays the quaint charm of Chinese classical music. 

 

The original work was in eleven sections, but the arranger had reduced it to an ensemble piece with nine sections.

 

First recorded in the Handbook on String Instruments edited by Rong Zhai during the Jiaqing reign (1814) of the Qing Dynasty, As the Moon Rises reappeared in Hua's Pipa Scores (1819). It is also known as Tune of the Rainbow Feather Dresses in that compilation and features 12 sections, and section titles are all rewritten to fit the lyrical descriptions of the respective moods. In adapting this work in 1961, Peng Xiuwen made some changes and the work now has nine sections: 1) An Icy Disc above the Island on the Sea; 2) Watching the Moon from a Pavilion by the Riverbank; 3) Wandering by the Beach; 4) The Silvery Toad in the Moon Breathes Rainbow Clouds; 5) As the Wind and the Mists Fill the Sky; 6) An Immaculate Lady of the Moon; 7) A Bright Spirit Hangs in the Sky; 8) Crossing the Milky Way and 9) Thousands of Mansions in the Moon.

 

These sections are arranged according to the logic of 'Expose, Develop, Vary and Conclude' that is at the heart of Chinese aesthetics. The exposition includes An Icy Disc above the Island on the Sea, Watching the Moon from a Pavilion by the Riverbank and Wandering by the Beach. The music is likened to an ink painting of the bright moon on a breezy night, when poems are composed on a pavilion by the riverbank. The development section comprises The Silvery Toad in the Moon Breathes Rainbow Clouds, As the Wind and the Mists Fill the Sky and An Immaculate Lady of the Moon. The beautiful melody undergoes free variation and the music becomes more fanciful and colourful, suggesting to the listener the ethereal dances of the Lady of the Moon. The variation section consists of A Bright Spirit Hangs in the Sky and Crossing the Milky Way. The arranger has dispensed with the sections The Bright Light of the Moon and The Moon Sets in the West from the original. The concluding section is Thousands of Mansions in the Moon. This is similar to the extensive use of space in Chinese paintings so as to leave a lot of room for the viewer's imagination. In pretty much the same way the listener is invited to exercise his imagination in exploring the boundless attraction of the moon.

 

In Tribute - The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Lead Pipa: Chen Yin

Hong Kong - the City that Never Sleeps (Summer Night from A Song of the Four Seasons)  
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

This is the second movement of the Four Seasons suite. It was the last to be completed in 1981, though the composition of the suite began in 1977. The theme revolves around the city of Hong Kong, and the beautiful night scenery which left an impression on the composer.

 

The styles of Guangdong (Cantonese) and Chaozhou music were used in the music to depict this city in the south. What I want to show here is not the glitzy, mercenary side of Hong Kong, but the city's beautiful scenery and the robust spirit of the people living in it.

 

- Peng Xiuwen

 

 

In Tribute - The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Stepping High
Composed by Lui Man-shing
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen

Stepping High is one of the representative works of a renowned composer of Guangdong music, Lui Man-shing. In his work, foreign technique of sequence and innovative ideas are boldly employed to portray the sentiments. At the beginning, an abrupt octave leap is used to manifest a spirit of enterprise. 

 

The music makes use of repetition of ideas to converge forces for the development of new nuances. The undulation of melodic line creates and relaxes tension alternately so that the music has a dynamic force, which is rendered in a humorous and innovative way without losing its ethnic character. This work was arranged for Chinese orchestra in 1990 with the addition of a prelude and a coda.

 

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Harken Back to Zhou
(Commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)
Composed by Chew Hee Chiat

The history of the Zhou Dynasty lasted for 800 years. While it may seem long, but in fact its development as a kingdom and its golden age were mainly confined to the two hundred years of the Western Zhou period (1046 – 771 BCE). It marked the zenith of monarchic rule, and feudal and patriarch systems were well in place. It gave us The Book of Changes and The Book of Songs, and created rites and music.

 

The Eastern Zhou period (770 – 221 BCE) was a time when the Zhou monarchy went on a decline and the territory began to disintegrate. By the Spring and Autumn period (circa 771 – 467 BCE), the vassal states went into political strife when feudalism and the patriarch system could no longer bond them together. But it was also a time of great intellectual development and various schools of thought emerged. Amidst the numerous voices, that of Confucius came out the strongest. He advocated reinstating the system of rites and music practiced during the Western Zhou period. While it can be explained as his earnest attempt to restore the peace and harmony of that utopian age, one cannot help suspecting that it also had to do with his legendary obsession with music.

 

The two periods of the Zhou Dynasty traced the disintegration and bonding of the states and the powers. But the final outcome was open-ended. The historical perspective gives excellent food for thought for us living in Hong Kong today. We can see some connection in the developments of history, yet we are millennia apart. To make this musical conceit come out as a piece of full-fledged music, I have juxtaposed what history tells us and how we feel in face of actuality, and leave the rest to your soulful search and imaginings!

 

- Chew Hee Chiat

 

* Commissioned by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra Limited in 2016 with sponsorship from CASH Music Fund.

 

 

Bridging the Glorious Dynasties of Ancient China and Hong Kong

23-24/9/2016

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Kampung and the City
Composed by JunYi Chow
(Chinese Music Without Bounds International Composition Competition Original Composition - Best Orchestra Work)

'Kampung'means 'village' in Malay. I grew up in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, which is a big city. My impressions of village life, such as the early morning dew and the never-ending patches of rice paddy fields, were all vicariously gleaned from watching television, or even born out of my imagination. In 2014, when I was on the way to Borobudur from Yogyakarta, all those vague impressions suddenly took real shape before me. I felt as if I was bordering between two worlds, with kampung on one side and the city on the other. This experience had a deep impact on me, and made me forget how busy life in the city is. Experiencing this contrast has also enabled me to realize that the so-called two worlds are in fact bonded to each other.

 

The music is in three sections: slow, fast and coda.

 

- JunYi Chow

 

* The music was world premiered in March 2017 at 'Chinese Music Without Bounds International Composition Competition Finals Concert', under the baton of Yan Huichang.

 

 

Forty Years with Hong Kong

22-23/9/2017

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

The Yellow River Capriccio
Composed by Cheng Dazhao

Do you know how many meanders there are in the Yellow River's course?

 

For thousands of years, the Yellow River has shaped the character of the people that live along its banks. The Yellow River has many guises – it is turbulent when its waves surge, desolate when it reminds one that 'a still river runs deep', unexpected with its numerous zigzag course, and joyous as it trips along the way… The changing scenes and emotions are depicted in this work, and as the music flows, it presents the many facets of life along the River as well as their vision of a better tomorrow.

 

- Cheng Dazhao

 

 

 

Festival Vancouver Pre-Tour Concert

3/8/2007

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

To the Spring Fair
Composed by Zhou Yugao and Lei Guangyao

This exquisite and beautiful work illustrates the scene of people rushing through the street against the background of green mountain and Erhai. This piece is the second movement of the suite Dian, which was awarded the Incentive Prize of the 1983 Shaanxi Province Musical Works (Folk Instrument Music). Although it is in binary form, the thematic motion appears throughout the piece. The whole piece is delicate and touching with clear orchestration.

 

Encore

10-11/8/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Impressions of Yungang Grottoes
Composed by Cheng Dazhao

The music presents the composer's impressions of Yungang Grottoes, an artistic marvel created by the Sienpi more than 1,500 years ago. Colossal Buddha images and grottoes were carved into the sandstone cliffs in Datong, Shanxi. In the words of the ancients, "the faces of the statues were all different and exquisitely carved. The niches were of various shapes. They are marvels to Man and the Gods." The music rolls out sights and sounds of this crossroad of cultures since the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). 

 

The special sound features in the work, such as hand-claps, clinking of stones and finger-snapping, are all inspired by the frescoes of the Apsaras in the Yungang Grottoes. This music piece is a re-enactment of the gestures and postures of these celestials. It is also a tribute to the grandeur and beauty of the Yungang Grottoes.

 

 

Roost of the Chinese – Traditional Chinese Music Concert

30-31/3/2005

Jockey Club Auditorium, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Jasmine
Composed by Liu Wenjin

This version of Jasmine is popular in the regions of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Northeastern China as well as Northern China. Lyrical, flowing and developing in ornamental progression, it has all the traits of folk art. It became an internationally recognized tune when Puccini wrote it into his opera, Turandot.

 

Composer Liu Wenjin incorporates Puccini's interpretation of Jasmine with the more rustic Chinese tune in this orchestral version, and a new architecture of tone colours comes out very distinctly with a witticism that is at the same time very appealing to the ear.

 

- Liu Wenjin

 

 

Spreading Chinese Music on China Soil and Beyond

5-6/10/2018

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

A Mountain Village Festival
Composed by Liu Wenjin

This is the second movement from the Chinese orchestral work Taihang Suite, showing the happy atmosphere in festival of the mountain village. The whole piece uses the folk music material of the Taihang Mountain. The form is strict but ebullient and full of rustic flavor.

 

Encore

10-11/8/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Suona Concerto Ecstasy of Nature
(Arrangement Commissioned by the HKCO / Premiere of the Chinese Orchestral Version)
Composed by Zhu Jian'er
Arranged by Chen Xieyang

Written in February 1989, this composition conveys the delight in nature which stimulates spontaneous expression of feelings. Sometimes reserved and sometimes ebullient with alternate comical or solemn passages, free rein has been given to the solo instrument to highlight its features in an informal style. 

 

This composition simultaneously 'modernizes' the suona treats traditional ensemble music symphonically, and is distinctive on two counts: 

 

1. Combination of traditional and Western musical elements.

The Suona, an all-out rustic folk instrument, collaborates in this piece of music with a western symphony orchestra (a rearrangement has been made for a Chinese traditional orchestra in this concert). Tunes with folkloric flavour are recast in a modern structure of atonality characterized by the 12-tone technique. Although it is a 'concerto', a western musical form, its structure is typically Chinese. Its five sections, Da Kai Men (a qupai, a set tune scheme), Yao Ban (a slow melodic line with an intense accompanied beat), Rou Ban (soft), Ji Ban (fast) and coda, similar to Da Qu (the full-scale musical work for gong and dance) in the Tang Dynasty, are played consecutively. 

 

2. Playing with co-ordinated styles.

Music for Suona can be categorized into the southern and northern schools. Not only tunes of both schools are adapted, features of different local opera (such as Yao Ban) and folk tunes nationwide (such as those of the Han Chinese and the ethnic minorities are also incorporated. By grafting and transplantation, the ingenious blending has immensely extended and enriched the suona's expressive power and has also raised considerably new difficulties in terms of its playing technique.

 

 

Hong Kong Arts Festival Concerts

8/2/1991

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chen Xieyang

Suona: Liu Ying

 

 

~ The recording was produced with the sole purpose of marking the special occasion and for documentary purpose. It is not a studio production where stringent, professional standards are expected and met.

Moonlight on the Spring River
Ancient Tune
Arranged by Qin Pengzhang & Luo Zhongrong

This was originally an ancient pipa piece called The Xiao and Drum at Sunset or Melody of Xunyang. In 1925, Liu Yaozhang and Zheng Jinwen of The Da Tong Music Society of Shanghai rearranged it for Chinese orchestra. The music can be likened to a long scroll of Chinese ink-wash landscape painting, which freely and expressively captures the enchanting scene of the Spring River on a moonlit night. 

 

It consists of nine sections. In Section 1, The Chiming Bells of the River Tower, the sun is setting on the river, and the evening breeze rises, ripping its surface. Section 2 and 3 freely modulate on an upper fourth and an upper fifth. The moon is rising in the east, behind the mountains. The breeze wafts on the meandering river and makes the flowers dance. In Section 5, the music is sometimes mellow and profound, at other times soft and tender. It sets the scene of a clear, spotless sky lit up by the bright disc. After a cantabile passage, there is an accelerando. The horizon is dotted with white sails and the distant sound of fishermen's singing can be heard. Section 7 begins slowly and accelerates to a fast tempo, just like the fishing boats breaking the water at full speed and the waves lapping the shore. The climax appears in Section 9, The Homebound Boat. As the melody moves in alternating lines of rising and falling, accelerando and crescendo, we see the boats returning to the harbour, their oars lapping the water rhythmically. The moon seems to dim with the tide, as the stars appear. At this point, springtime, the river, the fishermen's songs, and the night seem to stretch far away, to an unknown horizon.

 

Poetry, Music and Painting 

20-21/11/2009

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

The Spring Festival Overture 
Composed by Lee Huanzhi
Instrumentation by Peng Xiuwen Compiled. by Yan Huichang

The Spring Festival marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year, and is a very important festival for the Chinese. People would greet each other with well wishes for the coming year. The Spring Festival Suite (for symphony orchestra) was composed between 1955 and 1956, and in it, folk songs and vernacular tunes of northwestern China, all different in style and character, are brought together. The suite is in four movements: Overture – The Mass Yangge Dance, Love Songs, Pange and FinaleThe Lantern Fair. The Overture later became so popular that it was often played as a standalone piece, and given the title Spring Festival Overture.

 

The Spring Festival Overture is a spirited and joyous rendition of a massive yangge gathering. There are sonorous drums and gongs, vigorous dance movements, and the image of lines of dancers crisscrossing each other to make formations. There is also the boisterous chorus singing at the cue of the leader. It is an allegro in ternary form, with two suona pieces of northern Shaanxi forming the main section and the refrain in moderato a lilting yangge tune. While the original symphony opens with the oboes and cellos, the Chinese orchestral version opens first with the wind and then the bowed-string sections, before embarking on a repeat of the main theme.

 

The original overture is in C major, but in this Chinese orchestral version, the tonal range of the instruments requires the work to be transposed to D major.

 

Riding into a New Year 2014

26/1/2014

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

 

 

~ The recording was produced with the sole purpose of marking the special occasion and for documentary purpose. It is not a studio production where stringent, professional standards are expected and met.

Percussion Concerto The Age of the Dragon
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

The dragon is a totem of the Chinese race, and the first year of the 21st century happens to be the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese horoscope. This happens, it is said, not once in a thousand years but once in three thousand years, and I am one of the lucky ones to witness this. A new millennium brings new hopes and expectations. As a composer, I think I would rather translate my hopes and expectations into music. In The Age of the Dragon, I have put two soloists in the lead: one Chinese percussion and the other, western, in an attempt to demonstrate the soul and the spirit of the Chinese people. 

 

The piece is in four movements. The first is The Sun - a symbol of light and heat and of faith and power. The second is The Moon - the watery moonlight is a reflection of the deepest feelings. The third is The Stars - twinkling and fascinating, they symbolize wit and hope and have brought wisdom to numerous sages. The fourth is The Earth - our mother and the home of all the people in the world. It is believed the Earth will get smaller and smaller in the new millennium while people's hearts will grow closer and closer to one another. I would count this as my only wish on the eve of the new age.   

 

-Chinese notes by Kuan Nai-chung

 

 

* Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at 'The Age of The Dragon' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall on 17th December 1999, guest conducted by Kwan Nai-chung.

 

 

 

Majestic Drums V – The Dynamic World of Yum Hok-man

23-24/9/2005

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Western Percussion: Lung Heung-wing

Chinese Percussion: Yim Hok-man

Guinea Dance A Guinean Ballad
Arranged by Kuan Nai-chung

The music captures the joys of the Guineans in Africa on a festive day.

 

*This music was awarded CASH Golden Sail Most Performed Works Awards – Local Serious Work in 2008.

 

Kuan Nai-chung and His Classic

24/4/2015              

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Kuan Nai-chung

Zhonghu Concerto The Indomitable Su Wu
Composed by Peng Xiuwen (1979)

The original composition was an erhu concerto. The story is based on a historical figure of the Han Dynasty, Su Wu (140BCE - 60BCE), who was famous for his patriotism and loyalty despite his sufferings. He was an envoy on a goodwill mission to the Huns in the North of China. But he was held hostage by the Hun prince who tried to force him to surrender by intimidation and by promise of wealth. But Su Wu was a man of integrity and, rather than yielding, he chastised the Hun prince for going back on the peace pact with Han. As a result, he was banished to Beihai to herd sheep. He spent nineteen lonely years there, but still refused to give up his status as a Han envoy. It was only when the emperor of Han sent another envoy to take him back to Han land that he was able to return, whereupon he was bestowed with honour and glory for his integrity.

 

The music portrays the patriotic figure of Su Wu from several angles. The theme melody is taken from two sources – a folk song Su Wu Herding Sheep and the guqin melody, Su Wu Misses the Emperor. It threads through the music as it develops, and forms a relatively free structure. The work is in three sections: 1. A Solitary Loyal Figure in a Snow Storm; 2. Thinking of Han and Missing Home, and 3. Returning Home with Glory.

 

The music opens with a sombre first movement, A Solitary Loyal Figure in a Snow Storm in an epic narrative. The protagonist's anxiety is introduced before the erhu solo rises in a cadenza passage from the cacophony of chaos. It portrays Su Wu's indomitable spirit, unwavering faith and his anger and sadness while standing in a land of wind and snow.

 

In the second movement, Thinking of Han and Missing Home, the tutti in the prelude describes the snow-covered, desolate and vast land with no single soul in sight. Then the solo zhonghu comes in with the heavy, plodding theme melody, expressing Su Wu's sad longing for his family and the unfulfilled wish of returning home after living beyond the Great Wall for so long. A more fluid middle section depicts Su Wu looking homeward in the far off distance, recalling the happy moments with his family. The mood returns to the former sad and lonely state, while the music ends on the seventh chord of the soprano sheng to suggest a ray of hope in the long, dark night.

 

The final movement, Returning Home with Glory, opens with a grand fanfare, as Su Wu returns to Han land amidst the welcoming sounds of horns and gongs. Below the apparent joy, there are lamentations of the bygones. The ensuing cadenza of the zhonghu solo recalls the nineteen years of hardships Su Wu has suffered in Beihai. In the coda the theme of Su Wu Herding Sheep appears on the xindi, then expands into a magnificent eulogy before it comes to a rousing, jubilant close.

 

 

- Wang Guotong

 

 

 

In Tribute – The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Eco-Zhonghu: Zhang Chongxue

Huqin Ensemble Reflection of the Moon on the Water (Excerpts)
Composed by Hua Yanjun
Arranged by Lee Huanzhi

This is the most representative work of the outstanding folk musician Hua Yanjun (A Bing). A Bing lost his eyesight when he was thirty-five (in 1928) and was eventually reduced to becoming a street musician. He experienced great injustice and all the hardship in low life and was much bullied. Reflection of the Moon on the Water is a picture of A Bing's mind, and the composer calls it 'The Tune of the Heart'.

 

In the summer of 1950, Yang Yinliu and Cao Anhe, two famous musicologists, recorded A Bing's performance of the work. They suggested that the piece be named after the ancient springs at the bottom of Huiquan Mountain in Wuxi. A Bing agreed and the work has since been known as Reflection of the Moon on the Water.

 

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Song of the General Ancient Melody
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen (1954)

The melodic material of this work is derived from the qupai (set tune) originally used in operatic tune as an introduction or to set the mood for grand battle arrays. It is a traditional wind and percussion piece of southern Jiangsu Province. With the soul-stirring, spirit-lifting sounds of drums and horns, and the robust blares of the suonas, gongs and drums, the music conjures up the victorious home-coming of a general surrounded by his army of soldiers and calvary.

 

The orchestration is a fine exemplification of the many levels of sounds performed by the two categories of gong and drum music, typically called 'the bold school' and 'the refined school'. As wave after wave of music ride on each other, they create a highly structured architecture. Another important aspect of the work is its contrapuntal use of interchanging tonalities, commonly used in Chinese folk music. The transposing gives this version brightness as well as a new touch.

 

 

In Tribute – The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

 

Symphonic Suite Raise the Red Lantern (Excerpts) for Chinese orchestra, Peking Opera percussion instruments and female voice (World Premiere) 
Composed by Zhao Jiping

My intention behind writing the Raise the Red Lantern suite is that I want to tell the story of a motion picture through music. The introductory phrases in the xipi and liushui tunes of Peking Opera form the primary material of the music, the themes of which are presented in a cyclic manner. It features a vocalise passage by a female chorus, and a combination of the orchestra and percussion instruments from Peking Opera - a practice is more an exception than the norm. The result is a work that is likewise an exception more than a norm, with compositional techniques to match.

 

There are five movements, Introduction, First Night, Wife and Concubines, Predestination and Reincarnation, which together tell the stories of the women in the deep courtyards of the mansion. The operatic tunes which seem never to cease, and the pressing female vocalise which seems to press closer and closer, all contribute to the tragic representation of the depressing life of concubines, as history seems to repeat itself.

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

*Only the 2nd and 4th movements are recorded in this piece.

 

 

 

The Magic Notes of Zhao Jiping

9/3/2003

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Allegro Singers

The Family Legend–The Moon at Dawn over Lugou Bridge for Chinese Orchestra 
Composed by Zhao Jiping

The huge popularity of the television serial drama, The Family Legend, spread like wild fire among Chinese communities all over the world. I have rewritten the theme from the serial drama to make up this commissioned work. The title shows its origin and at the same time incorporates a second title called The Moon at Dawn over Lugou Bridge, which highlights the characteristics and mood of the Capital of Beijing.

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

 

The Magic Notes of Zhao Jiping

9/3/2003

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Zhao Jiping

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for Erhu Solo and Chinese Orchestra (Arrangement commissioned by HKCO/ World Premiere of Chinese orchestral version)
Composed by Tan Dun
The Chinese instrumental orchestral parts are arranged by Chen Yuanlin based on the original western orchestral version. The erhu solo and percussion parts remain the same from the original score.

In 2001, Tan Dun's film score for Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won an Oscar for Best Music (Score). The music was later rearranged into a concerto of the same name, for huqin and the symphonic orchestra. This performance by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra features the adaptation of the symphony sections of that concerto for a Chinese orchestra by Tan's close friend since university days, Chen Yuanlin. The erhu solo and the percussion sections of the original work are from the original scores. The work is in six movements to correspond with the main plot and musical development in the film.

 

 

Tan Dun &HKCO 

9-10/1/2004

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Tan Dun

Erhu, Zhonghu: Ma Xianghua

Percussion: David Cossin

Beautiful Clouds Chasing the Moon
Composed by Ren Guang
Arranged by Law Wai-lun

Originally composed for the Pathe Chinese Orchestra by Ren Guang and Nie Er in 1935, it is distinguished using the pentatonic scale, sequences of upper fifths and syncopated rhythms. The alternative playing of dizi and erhu, the light rhythm of the plucked-string instruments, along with the beautiful timbre of the bass instruments, vividly depict the charming scenery at night. The whole piece employs the style of Chinese folk pentatonic scale.

 

 

Encore

10-11/8/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Symphonic Suite for Jinghu, Erhu and Orchestra The Lady Warriors of the Yang Family (Commissioned by the HKCO)
Composed by Wu Hua

This symphonic suite is based on certain episodes in The Saga of the Yang Family of Generals and a Peking Opera of the same title, and much use is made of elements derived from the musical genre of the Peking Opera. This is a large-scale work incorporating a double concerto of the jinghu and the erhu in the style of Peking Opera, and is probably the first of its kind to have been composed in China. It is the ninth work in a series known as Music from the Pear Garden: The Spirit of Chinese Opera by composer Wu Hua, featuring the continuous performance of four interlinked movements, namely, Ode to the Heroines, In Praise of the Woman in Arms, The Lament of the Widows and the Orphans, and The Lady Generals. It seeks to depict the many different personalities of the female warriors of the Yang family: Lady Dowager She, Lady Mu Guiying, the Eight and Ninth Sisters, and Yang Paifeng the Maid. By telling their stories in music, it sings praise of the Yang womenfolk's admirable patriotism and how they, knowing that the borders of the Song Empire are under siege by nomadic barbarians from the North, nobly take up the cause of protecting their country when there is none other capable of leading the army in battle against foreign aggression. Musically the jinghu and the erhu are given the widest range of expressiveness, incorporating the characteristic forms and modes of vocalization in Chinese operatic music. The work is thus an innovative and worthy attempt for instruments in the huqin family.

 

1. Ode to the Heroines Heroic moderato – allegro

The section begins with a somber tune and an erhucadenza based on it, presenting a contrasting blend of the tragic and the heroic. Then the moderato-paced first theme enters - stately, balanced, yet full of passion - and featuring the special bowing techniques of the jinghu. It describes the energetic heroism of Mu Guiying and the venerable bearing of the patriotic Lady Dowager. The polytonal passages in the second half seek to depict the various emotions being experienced by these remarkable women. The section ends with the theme of the nomadic aggressors to presage the forthcoming tragedy and the heroic sacrifice of the heroines.

 

2. In Praise of the Woman in Arms Chivalric- allegro

The Yang women are not ordinary women who are given to feminine mannerisms.  They are woman warriors who spent their youth on the battlefield and amidst combats with enemies. In this section, the composer makes extensive use of the several elements that make up an aria in Peking Opera, and attempts to instrumentalize vocal techniques commonly employed in operatic singing to express the beauty and intelligence of the woman warriors and how they discharge their duties without fear and thought of their own safety in defence of their own country.

 

3. The Lament of the Widows and the Orphans Grief-stricken – adagio

The men folk of the Yang family have lost their lives in defending their country against foreign invaders. Years of warfare have deprived the Yang ladies of their husbands and loved ones. This section is a slowly-paced movement aimed at exploring the depth of the Yang women's grief. It is in simple ternary form, beginning with the Yang ladies offering sacrifice at obsequies for their dead husbands. Every word they utter shows their devastation, and the rhetoric varies between gentle complaint and fierce accusations. They are lost and aggrieved, bewildered and perplexed as they recall the cause of their sadness. This is a movement in which the composer delineates the emotional experience of the Yang women, and is a prolonged recitative on a grand scale. It is worth mentioning here that, in this section, there is a special bowing technique which has become the most remarkable characteristic of the music.

 

4. The Lady Generals A belligerent allegro - a grand andante

The expedition to the West by the twelve widows is the most moving and vivid episode in the Yang family saga, and is the climax of the female heroism that informs the story. The movement begins with music for the grand entrance of the dowager commander and the recitation of the names of the generals in the expedition, and the belligerent allegro is then brought in. This first half of the movement vividly paints the picture of the bravery and fearlessness of the lady generals on the battlefield. If the second movement is a notional description of the combat scenes, then this last movement must be a realistic depiction of the same scenes. An especially florid passage shows the courageous women engaged in fierce fighting, and then the music comes to a sudden stop and a change of mood, where by the movement enters its second half. This is the Grand March of the twelve widows on the western expedition. In a slow and stately progression punctuated by drums and gongs in the Peking Opera fashion and the extensive use of wind instruments signifying warfare, the listener begins to wonder what this stately music signifies: expedition, progress, the installation of a commander, or returning in triumph? In any case, as an ancient poem suggests, "Do not mock those who lie drunk on the battleground; for, since time immemorial, those who go on military expeditions seldom return? The music here is a concentrated effort to express the heroic spirit and acts of the Yang woman warriors, and their superb patriotism which enables them to fight with no fear or consideration for their own lives. Finally the music turns into a vibrant and agitated coda, bringing the whole work to a climactic close.

 

- Wu Hua

 

*The music was commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered in April 2004, under the baton of Bian Zushan.

 

 

The Huqin World of Ngai Kwun-wa

5-6/5/2006

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee-chiat

Jinghu: Ngai Kwun-wa

Erhu: Lu Yunxia

Jinghu and Orchestra In the Deep of the Night Set Tune from Peking Opera
Arranged by Wu Hua

The music comes from a tune containing only four phrases, taken from the Kunqu Opera, Thoughts of Unfrocking. The original tune has been adapted and developed by generations of qin players in Peking Opera. The Chinese title, Ye-Shen-Chen (meaning 'in the deep of the night'), is taken from the first three characters in the original lyrics, in the tradition of naming Chinese set-tunes. The tune was later used in two Peking Operas, Beating the Drum and Chastising Cao Cao, and King Chu Bidding Farewell to His Concubine. It has also become a favourite solo piece for jinghu instrumentalists. 

 

Thoughts of Unfrocking and Descending from the Mountain are two opera excerpts about a young monk and a young nun. Finding secular life more attractive to them, each seeks to escape. The two meet on the way, fall in love, and become husband and wife. The original lyrics go like this: "In the deep of the night, I lie alone; when I wake up, I sit alone. Who can be more lonesome than I? What becomes of one in this life of holy orders?" The original melody, which runs within a narrow tonal range and therefore lacks variation, is given a new arrangement, with new dynamics added to create a firm, decisive rhythm for a coherent progression. In this way, what used to be a self-pitying, plaintive lamentation now becomes a robust, forceful piece with lyrical appeal.

 

 

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Taiwan Concert Tour 

Jewel from Hong Kong

3/12/2012

Hsinchu Performing Arts Center, Taiwan

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Jinghu: Ngai Kwun-wa

Jing Erhu: Lu Yunxia

Symphonic Poem Mu Guiying Leads Her Army to War (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO)
Composed collectively by the China Central Orchestra
Arranged by Kuan Nai-chung

Mu Guiying Leads Her Army to War is a symphonic poem that tells the story of a heroine of great courage, Mu Guiying. It traces how she assumes command and goes into the battlefield in direct confrontation with the enemy, in a patriotic bid to protect her country. The music from Peking Opera forms the basis of the work. The symphonic poem is in four sections:

 

1. Introduction

The story opens with the wind instruments playing traditional set tunes of Dian-Jiang-Chun and Shui-Long-Yin, the percussive points of Si-Ji-Tou, and the vocal style and pattern of Xipi-Daoban originally sung by an actor in the Qingyi (virtuous female) role. 

 

2. Recalling the Past at the Yang Residence 

The strings play an aria sung by the Qingyi in Nan-Bang-Zi and Xipi-Erhuang tunes. This forms the theme of the titular heroine. She recalls the major moments in her life – when she was appointed commander at a young age, her triumphant thwarting of the enemy’s Tianmen formation, and other scenes of fighting on the battlefield – as the main theme reappears to take her further into her memories.

 

3. The Liao Army's Invasion

  1. The invasion – The percussion is given a high profile in this section to depict the atrocities of invaders as they rob, kill and burn.
  2. The devastated common folks – The melody is based on two set tunes, Ku-Xiang-Si and Gao-Bo-Zi, reinterpreted through the orchestra. The people are suffering, but soon they turn their devastation into joint forces.

 

4. Assuming Commandership and Going to War

  1. A soliloquy – A recitative is developed from the Mu Guiying theme, which is formed by the Xipi-Sanban and Liushuiban vocal passages of the Qingyi (virtuous woman). The high-flung emotions of the heroine being left with no choice but to accept the gargantuan task of leading the army to war are vividly expressed.
  2. At the marshal’s tent – In an awe-inspiring fanfare of drumbeats and horns, the magnificent theme on the set tune of Dian-Jiang-Chun emerges. It is Mu Guiying at the marshal’s tent after she has been appointed chief commander of the expedition. A muster roll is called, and generals are assigned to their squadrons. Then a variation on Liu-Qing-Niang and Gao-Bo-Zi, with a powerful rendition of the Ku-Xiang-Si set tune, makes for a solidarity pledge as the army prepares for war. The common folks also pledge for solidarity in the war against the enemy, and they show their love and support of the heroine.
  3. Going into the battle – Led by Mu Guiying, the army sets forth on its expedition to the front in a rousing sendoff of bugles and drums.

 

* The arrangement of this music was commissioned and premiered by the HKCO in May 1986 at the concert 'Journey Across China' held at Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, under the baton of Kuan Nai-chung.

 

 

China Tour 2017 – Shenyang

The 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR

4/6/2017

Shenyang Shengjing Grand Theatre

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Jinghu: Ngai Kwun Wah

Jingerhu: Lu Yunxia

 

 

~ The recording was produced with the sole purpose of marking the special occasion and for documentary purpose. It is not a studio production where stringent, professional standards are expected and met.

Pipa and Orchestra King Chu Doffs His Armour Ancient Melody
From the notation of Shen Haochu Compiled by Lin Shicheng
Arranged by Kuan Nai-chung

This is one of the exemplary works of the 'military category' of pipa music. The earliest known score was found in Hua Qiuping’s Pipa Scores, and later was also included in Li Fangyuan’s Thirteen Sets of New Pipa Scores of the Northern and Southern Schools. The number of sections was also expanded. While Li attributed the piece to Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty, there was insufficient proof of this. However, the score in Li's collection has become the basis on which later arrangements were worked. It has a total of fifteen sections: 1. the camp drum; 2. assembly; 3. appointing the generals; 4. forming the squadrons; 5. the battle array; 6. marching forth; 7. in close combat; 8. the battle at Gaixia; 9. the Song of the Chu; 10. parting with Lady Yu; 11. the sound of drums, horns and armour; 12. the breaking through; 13. in close pursuit; 14. chasing away the horses; and 15. the victorious return.

 

As a representative work in the 'Southern school', this pipa piece is tuned to A, B, E, A (versus the more common A, D, E, A). The strumming therefore creates an unusual, 'strung up' sound. The music begins with the prelude to the famous battle that would determine the fate of two states, Chu and Han. With drums, horns and sounds of horses galloping, a magnificent scene at camp unfolds. Then the heroic image of the King of Chu is created through a succession of passages. He is cast as a great fighter and strategist. But with the turn of events, he suffers his downfall. The mood changes from heroic magnificence to tragic lament. After hearing the ‘Song of the Chu’ and bidding farewell to his favourite concubine, he cannot but have to meet his own end. Although he breaks through the enemy front – a point that marks the turn – he only manages to escape to Wujiang River, where, caught between the dead end and the pursuing enemies, he takes his own life, and the music comes to a tragic close.

 

The emphasis of the music is on the fall of a heroic figure rather than on the battle scene. It captures his psychological changes, his resignation to fate, and his loneliness.  Although written with the intention of being a 'variation', the work is structurally complete with an opening, exposition, transition and close. It is a beautifully written piece for the pipa and demonstrates the advanced music culture of ancient China.            

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Zhongruan and Orchestra In Remembrance of Yunnan
Composed by Liu Xing

Dedicated to my dear friend Chen Wen

 

“My endless imagination and yearning were aroused whenever she told me the interesting episodes in her childhood. The enchanting scenery and unique music described by her enriched my inspiration and refreshed my feelings. It is a pity that I have never been to Yunnan myself. I hope this will not be my regret forever.”

 

- Liu Xing

 

This work is written by a young composer whose compositions have a rich contemporary flavour. It is the first Zhongruan concerto written in China and a tremendous breakthrough has been made in the playing technique of Zhongruan. Traditionally this plucked string instrument solely acts as an accompanying instrument. In this piece, however, it becomes a solo instrument with a unique flavour. Since Jazz rhythm and harmony, as well as fast broken chords are employed, traditional Chinese music style has been recast in this work. It is in three sections:

 

  1. Allegretto moderato.
  2. Adagio sostenuto.
  3. Allegro meccanico.

 

 

Romantic China

21-22/11/1997

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Zhongruan: Liu Xing

The Silk Road
Composed by Jiang Ying

Stretching for thousands of miles as an early conduit of East-West exchange, the Silk Road carries with it a wealth of mysteries and heritage about the human world. It has the pulse of millennia of ancient cultures as it was the hub of the four ancient civilizations. The music culture of this enchanting route has been the source of inspiration for musicians of different cultural background, and similarly, the present work showcases the musical properties, tonal character and performing techniques of ethnic musical instruments in an eclectic interpretation of the characteristics of music of China's west, its neighbouring Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as elements of world music. It evolves in an open structure, its latent energy gradually pushing the orchestra to a glorious climax, like the sun shining on the Gobi Desert, turning Man's passions in life and dreams into gleaming gold!

 

- Jiang Ying

 

*  The exotic instrument used in this piece: Banhu (Ngai Kwun Wa)

 

 

Voices of Spring

25-26/1/2019

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Symphonic Poem The Legend of Shadi’er
Composed by Liu Yuan

Shadi'er was a national hero of the Uygur ethnic group in Xinjiang during the Qing Dynasty, killed in their fight against oppression by the Manchu government.  He was remembered through this song, which is still sung today.

 

The exotic touch of Xinjiang is retained in the music, as well as the traditional compositional techniques and form. The melodic features, colourful idiom and mixed rhythm bring out the poignantly touching narrative which escalates dramatically to the climactic close.

 

- Liu Yuan

 

Xia Feiyun Conducts Chinese Music Favourites

3-4/1/2014

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Xia Feiyun

Festivities (Commissioned by the HKCO)
Composed by Wang Ning

The music is a description of the celebrations on a feast day. It is made up of four sections, each incorporating the folk music elements of a specific region of China, such as the gongs and drums of eastern Zhejiang, the instrumental music of the ethnic minority tribes of Guangxi, the music of 'narrative singing' of Henan, and the regional opera of the northeast etc. It is therefore self-explanatory in meaning.

 

- Wang Ning

 

* The music was commissioned by the HKCO and world premiered in April 2006 at the concert 'An East-West Crossover' held at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, under the baton of Yan Huichang.

** The exotic instrument used in this piece: Jinghu (Ngai KwunWa) 

 

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select II – A Musical Sojourn of Indigenous China

13/11/2020

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

The Song of the General Ancient Melody
Arranged by Gu Guanren

It is not uncommon for Chinese folk music to share the same title. One of the best examples is The Song of the General. Although the name is very popular in terms of mass recognition, the music, structure and orchestration can be very different in each piece. The most common version has a grand, masculine quality, and is performed as the fanfare or opening piece for regional operas. The shifan luogu version found in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, by tradition, appears as the opening piece for the shifan gongs and drums operas, but Peng Xiuwen arranged it into a folk ensemble.      

 

Another version that is very familiar to many can be traced back to as early as 1818, in The Pipa Scores compiled by Hua Qiuping (1784-1859). In it, the work was listed as 'notated by Chen Mufu of Zhejiang'. This work can also be found in the traditional zheng repertoire of Zhejiang. It shared the same structure as the pipa version. In the early 19th Century, Rong Zhai, a literati of Mongolian descent in the Qing Dynasty, included a Song of the General in the 1814 manuscript version of a score for ensemble music entitled A Study of Strings compiled by him. Some of its melodic phrases close to the version collected in Hua's The Pipa Scores. It is therefore possible that Hua's version was widely circulated among the literati of Manchurian and Mongolian descent before the 19th Century. Thirteen Major Pieces of New Pipa Scores of the North and South Schools published in 1895, compiled by Li Fangyuan in late Qing, also refers to the Hua version as a "Manchurian Song of the General".  

 

Since the 1930's, this piece of music has been given new arrangements to make it suitable for performance by a full Chinese orchestra. The story of the martial art master Huang Feihong, or Wong Fei Hung in Cantonese, which has been made more than one hundred films, has used this music as its theme. The melody is now an easily recognisable household tune.  

 

The arrangement by Gu Guanren is based on the Hua version. He made some changes to the melody, and incorporated such instruments as the bianzhong and bianqing to give the music impressive grandeur and expansiveness.  

 

The prelude features the zhong (bells), the qing (stone chime) and the drums. It is a vivid depiction of an ancient general taking his seat to inspect his army. His formidable presence is preceded by a fanfare of horns and drums. A befitting entrance for a hero. The strong, rhythmic theme is introduced by the plucked-string section, and is repeated by the bowed-strings, the bianzhong and the bianqing. It is then followed by a sub-theme with a dotted rhythm, which is a variation on the original melody. Performed by the bowed-string and wind sections, it re-introduces the theme with the clamorous suona until the music comes to a dramatic high point.  

 

The passage that follows is in acceleration. As the instruments pile on each other, they create an urgency and tension that represent an army on the march. The solemnity in the andante portrays the heroic persona and brings the piece to a fitting close.

 

Note: Although The General's Command is a rather commonly known title, it has been a long-standing mistake. The word 'Command' has come from the wrong interpretation of the Chinese word 'ling', which means in fact 'a short piece of music'. We are therefore changing the title to The Song of the General.  

 

Yuen Long Theatre Opening Art Festival

Roman Tam & Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra – ROMANtic Rendezvous

12-14/5/2000

Yuen Long Theatre Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Seeking Dreams on West Lake
Composed by Qian Zhaoxi

A lyrical description of the beautiful scenery on West Lake and the myriad manifestations of Nature, the music highlights the exaltation of being 'one with nature'. It is in three movements: The Moon and the Water, Fish Frolic and The Temple in the Mountain. Premiered in 1986 at the Beijing Concert Hall, it won very high critical as well as popular acclaim. A critique in Beijing Music says, "it has exquisite conceptualization, innovative arranging, and is profoundly musical and highly charismatic."

 

Picturesque Music

19-20/9/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Performed by: Zhejiang Chinese Orchestra

 

 

This is a live recording produced by venue for the sole purpose of documentary use.

Suona Concerto Beckoning the Phoenix (Hong Kong Premiere) (Shortened version)
Composed by Qin Wenchen

Using the ancient mythological figure of the phoenix as its theme, this piece seeks to evoke the national spirit and distinct ethos of the Chinese race. My inspiration for this piece came from a series of oil paintings known as The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes that I saw a few years ago. The phoenix is born and bred in darkness, then after it has gone through fire, it rises to maturity and takes flight, soaring high in the direction of the sun. I was deeply touched by the vitality and spirit in the paintings, and this work is a representation of Man's perpetual yearning for Life since time immemorial. 

 

- Qin Wenchen

 

 

The Wonderful Winds of Guo Yazhi – The Suona Story

13-14/4/2007

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Souna: Guo Yazhi

Symphony No. 2 for Chinese orchestra and pipe organ
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

The first movement: Maestoso - Allegro

The second movement: Adagio

The third movement: Scherzo

The fourth movement: Allegro con brio

 

The diversity of Chinese musical instruments lends rich tone colours to the music, and the varied performing techniques that are unique to each generic type of instrument lend rich expressiveness to the Chinese orchestra. On the other hand, the pipe organ – known as the 'King of Instruments' to the western music world – is magnificent and overwhelming with its solemnity. On this occasion, when the Chinese orchestra teams up with the pipe organ, one can expect an exciting, splendorous tapestry of cultures and sounds. It would also give the Chinese orchestra a mightiness as never before.

 

Symphony No. 2 is written in the stylistic provenance of Chinese music by following the stringent form of its Western counterpart. The two themes of the Western sonata form are juxtaposed – the steely against the gentle, the yin against the yang – then developed until the duality is merged, the conflicts are ironed out, harmony is done, and the opposites are now one. The East-West fusion is complete, in terms of musical instruments, melodies, structures, and spirits. Therein we see a brave new world of progress and advancement, of peace and love.

 

* This work was commissioned in 1989 for the inauguration of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and was premiered in November that year at the HKCC Concert Hall, under the baton of Kuan Nai-Chung.

 

 

Eternal Wings – Hong Kong Cultural Centre 30th Anniversary Concert

29-30/11/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipe Organ: Shen Yuan

Luan-Yun-Fei Adapted from the Peking Opera Azalea Mountain
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen 

This is a major aria from the Modern Peking Opera Azalea Mountain. The music expresses the changes of emotions of the characters in the opera through variations in a set of ban (rhythms) and qiang (vocalization). It is a successful example of how vocal styles in Peking Opera can be given a new lease of life through instrumentalization.

 

When rearranged as an ensemble piece, the original jinghu and jing'erhu in the operatic music are retained. The vocal parts are performed by the suona, huqin, dizi and other plucked-string instruments imitation of the human voice and according to the parts sung in the libretti. The arranger explores the possibilities of the folk orchestra through intricate orchestration, thus turning the aria into an ensemble piece for Chinese orchestra. With the fine interpretation of the players, the music is able to pluck at the listeners' heartstrings.

 

 

 

'In Tribute The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert'

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Symphonic Poem - Flowing Water
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

Inspired by a guqin melody of the same title, the music was written in 1979 and won a Class One Award in Folk Instrumental Music at China's Third National Composition Contest. 

 

It follows the flow of water from its source and depicts its many guises. After a brief introduction, it appears as a brook, then a stream, and as it meanders its way through the gorges, becomes rapids, then converging to become a river before it reaches the sea in an impressive coda.

 

From its humble source of a gurgling fount, the water flows and grows as it runs its course of thousands of miles, until it becomes a magnificent torrent of a river that pours into the sea. It is an analogy of man's life: there are times when it is smooth-sailing, and there are times when we face ups and downs and tribulations. But what is important is we hold fast onto our ideals. After listening to the music, one may be transposed to the mystical world where one watches, not without sadness, how life flows by.

 

 

HKSAR 20th Anniversary Celebration – HKCO Mainland China Tour

3/6/2017

Beijing Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

 

~ The recording was produced with the sole purpose of marking the special occasion and for documentary purpose. It is not a studio production where stringent, professional standards are expected and met.

Drums in Celebration of a Bumper Harvest
Composed by Peng Xiuwen and Cai Huiquan

Written in 1972, this work features an adaptation of certain drum beat and cross-striking techniques commonly found in traditional wind and percussion music. It gives an ample demonstration of the expressiveness and colours of traditional Chinese percussion instruments, and is at once an embodiment of ethnic characteristics and the spirit of our time. 

 

The work is in four sections. The introduction begins with the sonorous and brilliant sound of the wind instruments. A scene of passionate joy follows with brisk, jumping rhythms. Then there is a drum and gong passage featuring the shimianluo, a set of gongs used in Zhejiang music and known for its rich and colourful sonority, making the music even more boisterous. Section two also begins with the wind instruments but the melody is of a more invocative nature. Then a cantabile melody is heard on the strings and the winds. The light, brisk rhythm and leaping melody on the plucked and bowed instruments express the people’s great happiness. 

 

Section three begins with the reappearance of the opening theme, and a rubato passage of bright tonal colours is played by the dizi to resemble the picturesque beauty of the natural landscape. Soft arpeggios are played on the yun gongs to evoke the rippling surface of clear water which gives dazzling reflections in the sunlight. The last section features the grand drum and gong techniques of Chaozhou, showing an adapted form of its 'artillery drumming' technique to bring forth impressive effects. The section begins with a recapitulation of the opening theme. In the meantime the percussion instruments deploy adaptation of techniques such as the 'Rapid wing' and the 'horse leg' from the wind and percussion of Peking Opera, and the 'cluster of clams' technique from the wind and percussion music of southern Jiangsu Province. These bring the work to a close in a mood of heat, speed and urgency.

 

 

'The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert'

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Follow the Pagoda Tree to Trace the Roots of Our Ancestors
Composed by Zhao Jiping

There is a saying, “From where did my ancestors come? Under the old pagoda tree in Hongdong, Shanxi…”

 

The musical thoughts are delicately told in the music, appearing first in the introduction and echoed in the last section. The soulful lyricism of the adagio tells of heartfelt yearnings for the native land. The allegretto in the middle section is full of emotive nuances, and vividly captures the joy of homecoming.

 

 

A Cosmopolitan Symphony – Opening Concert of the 43rd Orchestral Season

27/9/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa Concerto No. 2 (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO)
Composed by Zhao Jiping

Zhao Jiping's Pipa Concerto No. 2 was jointly commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra of Australia and the National Centre for the Performing Arts of China, and was given a world premiere at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. It adopts musical elements of the Chinese regional genre of Suzhou pingtan, and in composition terms, it is not bound by the structure of the Western concerto. Instead, it consists of a single movement which focuses on exploring poetic expressions of thoughts and feelings. The neat musical contour and the well laid out harmonic ambience should stimulate the audience's imagination. 

 

*Chinese orchestral version commissioned and premiered by the HKCO on 12-13 April 2019 at the 'A Historic Dialogue - The Symphonic Chinese Music of Zhao Jiping' Concert, at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, conducted by Yan Huichang, Pipa by Wu Man.

 

 

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select III

The Peony Pavilion and The Yellow Earth

17-18/9/2021

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Guanzi Concerto The Silk Road Fantasia Suite
Composed by Zhao Jiping

My impressions of the Silk Road were gleaned from the pictures I saw when, as a boy, I stood by my father's desk and watched him draw one Chinese landscape painting after another, based on the sketches he made from his Silk Road tour. The myriad changes in the pictorial composition, the wielding of the brush and the ink tones left such fantastic imaginings within me that I felt those were vast expanses of space filled with musical notes, allowing me to roam free with my musical thoughts. In the course of time, I built my own musical Silk Road, Farewell in Changan, The Song in the Ancient Route, The Music of Liangzhou, The Dream of Loulan and The Dance of Qiuci. They made up my musical journey down the ancient Silk Road.

 

Say not the Earth ends where the Horizon does, 

for the sky stretches beyond,

As you reach Anxi in the far west, 

there is still further west to go.

- Cen Shen, Tang Dynasty

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

 

The Silk Road Fantasia Suite

12/2004

Tsuen Wan Town Hall, Hong Kong

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Guanzi: Guo Yazhi

Memories (The Fourth Movement of The Desert Smoke Suite)
Composed by Zhao Jiping

You said you liked this movement - every time you heard it, 

your eyes would overflow like a fountain, a river of tears.

It was as if you knew, or you felt what was coming; 

it was as if deep in you, it was already your…

The phrases in my music are flowing with your endless thoughts; 

my life is encircled by wisps of your humming song. 

Sitting here, there used to be you, there used to be me, 

but now you're gone, to heaven so faraway…

What is left, is only music that would say what we will;

even before the music rises, my heart is raining with tears…

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Scenes of Yunnan
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

Yunnan is located at the southwest frontier of China. It has a very complicated topography that features high mountain ranges and fast running rivers, long, meandering river valleys and flat basins. The geographical factors give rise to the people's open-minded character. Their folk songs are particularly colourful and well known.

 

Scenes of Yunnan is a work in three movements. It is a suite in which each movement is based on a folk song. The composer however has not confined himself to the original lyrics but created new meanings and moods by making use of the melody and style of the original music. There is a skillful use of harmony to achieve a richer tonality. The instrumentation of the piece also shows considerable artistry whereby refreshing colours are achieved. There is also a unique rhythmic structure that is far from the common throng to give each of the movements its own character and stylishness.

 

The first movement: The Sound of Horse Bells amidst the Sea of Clouds 

The melody is based on The Ten Girls, a 'lantern' folk song-and-dance piece from Yunnan. The original music depicts ten tea-pickers happily at work, so there is a vivacity and feminine charm about it. In this arrangement, it suggests the idyllic scene of a horse and donkey train walking in the mountains amidst the sea of clouds and mists. 

 

The second movement: Evening in the Woods 

A variation on the traditional tune, The Murmuring Brook, the music lovingly creates the mood for love. 

 

The third movement: The Lantern Festival

It is derived from the Herdsmen's Folk Song, the melody features only four notes and a range of only a fifth. However, it makes for a lively and vibrant theme with robustness. It is adapted in this work to depict the Lantern Festival, an occasion of excitement and fun. In the middle section the strings and the suona play a beautiful andante to bring in warmth amidst the boisterous atmosphere, and a remarkable contrasting effect is achieved. Then the main theme appears again in presto and in various sections of the orchestra to signify the sight and sound of the festival. It also brings the whole work to a joyous conclusion. 

 

- Revised by Kuan Nai-chung

 

* The exotic instrument used in this piece: Bawu (Lin Yu-hsien)

** This original composition was commissioned by the HKCO and was premiered at the 'Season Opening Concert of its 6th Orchestral Season' in April 1982, under the baton of Ng Tai Kong.

 

 

 

Yunnan Scenes

19-20/1/2018

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Kuan Nai-chung

Instruments of the Chinese Orchestra: A Musical Guide
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

Chinese musical instruments are so varied they count by the dozens. This is a piece that demonstrates the sounds of each of these instruments and how it is best played. Based on a folk song of the Jiangsu Province called Jasmine, the music develops through its variations and incorporates the different types of instruments. At the end of it the listener achieves a better understanding of the Chinese orchestra through appreciating the beautiful tune. 

 

 

Golden Hits with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

25/10/1986

Hong Kong Coliseum

Conductor: Kuan Nai-chung

Narrator: Liza Wang

 

This is a live recording produced by venue for the sole purpose of documentary use.

Jing. Qi. Shen
Composed by Chan Ming-chi

In East-Asian philosophy concepts 'Qi' is the inherent vitality in all-living things within the universe; it has the quality of internal cohesive power which is linked to the deeper connotations of life. Accordingly, 'Qi' is able to bring about creation and transformation, as well as being all embracing; and amid the contrast and the integration between the two opposing poles – 'Yin' and 'Yang' it contains, 'Qi' exhibits endless robust energy of life. Thus, in the hall of fame of arts 'the turnover of Qi' naturally becomes the source of creative works and life force.  

 

The work is based on the cyclic recurrence of life in the universe, which is represented by different musical figures, tone colour of special shifts and variation. It also makes use of dynamic and static co-ordination and transformation within the rhythmic figures in 'Yin' (negative) and 'Yang' (positive) contrasting the void with substance, to express a sort of lilting beauty, albeit with equal emphasis on gentleness. This is an idea embraced by the East-Asian culture. The work also reflects the unflagging and indomitable 'Jing. Qi. Shen' as well as the enterprising spirit which is much cherished by Chinese. This piece was selected as one of the 'Ten Recommended Pieces 2001' by the International Music Council of UNESCO.

 

- Chan Ming-chi

 

* This music was commissioned by the HKCO and premiered in February 1998 at the 'Hong Kong Arts Festival – Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra' concert held at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, guest conducted by Richard Tsang.

 

Tang Capriccio - Chinese Orchestral Works by Hong Kong Composers

27-28/5/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Becoming a Butterfly in a Dream
Composed by Chen Ning-chi

The piece was inspired by 'ZHUANG Zhou Becoming a Butterfly in a Dream', an essay from 'On Equality of Things' by ZHUANG ZI. In the essay he dreams of himself as a butterfly. Besides, regarding the butterfly as an independent entity, he feels it reflects himself. In such a case, no one can be sure whether there is a 'thing' or an 'I' or whether 'I' a 'thing' or a 'thing' an 'I'. So, we should not insist on differentiation of entitles in the universe, and disputes on right or wrong are like unrealistic talk.

 

As such, in an illusory, imaginative world, this fanciful piece discards all mundane worries and attempts to fulfil something hard to come by in this dreamlike music. But can the real life be part of a dream? What would happen when one is awakened from a dream? Putting all these aside, let us be led into a realm without discerning I or thing.

 

Section I: A beautiful butterfly is flying carefree, up and down, fast and slow, in a world of phantasy. It is illusory like the 'I' in a dream, blithe and unrestrained. Since this section emphasizes conceptual descriptions, there is no complete subject, but only some fragmentary tunes.

 

Section II: A song-like theme which starts in the lower register gradually coming to the higher register where it continues to develop. The constant changes are like thousands of colourful butterflies flying in the air which variegated radiance. The changing images lead the music into an illusory world. This section is the continuation of the last one without letting up.

 

Section III: The high-spirited theme is played by the suona. The 'I' is surprised to find that he has become one of the butterflies flying in the air. Shocked at first, he turns happy. At this juncture, it is insignificant to distinguish a man or a butterfly. In this wonderful realm, one should enjoy the freedom without any mundane shackles. The music accelerates, from largo to presto, and the sentiments are changing, meek, leaping, joyous yet discordant.

 

Section IV: The delightful, miraculous images suddenly disappear and the music returns to its earlier state, as if a single butterfly is flying in a dreamy world. The first section re-emerges. Lastly, the previous joyous and fast materials reappear in a slow tempo and the whole piece concludes in a serene atmosphere. Though memorable events repeated, they react in recollections in which people might become confused whether they are really awake or still dreaming.

 

 

Tang Capriccio - Chinese Orchestral Works by Hong Kong Composers

27-28/5/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Ancient Capital
Composed by Chen Ning-chi

Ancient Capital is a work of reminiscence in character. Like a lonely passer-by, one travels back in history, indulging in a time that is one word, and walking under the bright sun across a desert or meadow. Xian is at daybreak which the last rays of the setting sun are casting shadows on the desolate temple in Western China where innumerable legends form a mystery. The huge bell on top of the city wall is tolling. It has been sounding since medieval times and will continue to do so into the future-telling stories about misfortunes and happiness of man, sighting over the constant change of things. The fragmented memories flash through the mind, like a castle in the air or a short, found dream. Disappointment replaces the dream as the night watchman is heard approaching with his drum and gong. For several thousand years this Chinese city glitters at night, with scenes of bustling excitement, but now everything gradually quietens down amidst sounds of the drum and gong.

 

This work was premiered on June 1984, conducted by Ng Tai-kong at the Hong Kong City Hall, Concert Hall.

 

 

Twenty Years of Chinese Music by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

12-13/9/1997

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chen Ning-chi

 

 

~ The is the revised version live recorded at 'Twenty Years of Chinese Music of Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra' in 1997. The recording was produced with the sole purpose of documentary use.

Symphonic Poem The Sound of Water
Composed by Yan Huichang

The first movement: The Waterfall

By applying a certain harmony to various combinations of instruments and arranging for their entrances at different times and places, the structure and intensity of the music are continuously enhanced to describe the natural scene of how a spring in the mountains grows from its source to become a waterfall cascading from a great height. Immediately following this, against a background of the rushing water, the expansive, florid theme based on the Qinghai folk song, Climb the High Mountains to See the Rivers on the Plain, emerges. It first appears on the bangdi (or the treble guan), to be imitatively reprised by the dizi and the sheng in different registers. Following this the entire string section, in a high-flung mood, complements the gushing spring water as represented by the winds and the plucked instruments, and pushes the music to its climax. The closely following passages in which the dizi plays contrapuntally against the plucked instruments create a sense of open space and fresh air, and develop the theme into a long, flowing folk song called sange, or 'mountain songs'. This section conjures up a scene of the composer's childhood home, where the sound of the dizi played by young cowherds reverberates. It is the composer's inspired reactions in the presence of an awe-inspiring waterfall.

 

The second movement: The Lake (zheng and orchestra)

This is a quiet movement full of imaginative colours. The description of the scene the composer has in mind proceeds with a highlighting approach, with the triangle, the Chinese wood block and the cymbal being played to produce series of staccato sounds in the background, and the zheng bringing out the quaint theme. On the quiet and deep water of a lake under the moon and the stars, a sagely old man, in a little boat, is telling his younger listeners the stories of ancient wisdom. The scenario is pictured musically, reminding one of an ancient tune resounding on a quiet lake – placid, contemplative, and poignantly evocative of the past.

 

The third movement: From Streams to Surging Rivers

It begins with a short motif made up of four notes that represent dripping water that cheerfully leap and run, until they augment into a gurgling stream. Then the bamboo dizi comes forth with an invocative first theme, which gives a buoyant, lively and dynamic flowing picture of many streams that sometimes merge and sometimes run separately as they meander along. In the course of this the composer inserts many passages showing the individual features of regional music along the rivers, such as labourers' tunes and dance music, and finally these disparate themes are assimilated through polymodal integration to suggest that many small streams have converged to form broad rivers as they run magnificently towards the ocean. It is symbolic of the driving spirit of solidarity among the many nationalities of the Chinese race.

 

The fourth movement: The Ocean

The string section is divided into over twenty parts and each of these joins instruments in other sections to form many blocks of sound. Added to these are the percussion instruments to suggest the voluminous grandeur of the ocean: amidst the whistling winds and roaring waves, the chimes and the winds can be heard in their magnificent solemnity. Together, they create an overwhelming, awe-inspiring scene of Nature at its most powerful. The glorious sonority of the chimes and winds piles one on top of the other like towering waves until the work comes to an earth-shaking, sky-rocking close.

 

- Yan Huichang

 

* This work was composed in 1983, and won a First Prize in a composition contest of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and a Second Prize in the Third National Music Composition Competition.

 

 

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select

22-25/4/2021

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Zheng: Li Tingting

Symphonic Poem Flowing Water
Composed by Chan Pui Fang

Inspired by a guqin tune of the same title*, the composer expresses his love of his native land through a description of the various forms of water running and flowing. The eulogizing theme is vividly brought out by the recurrent motif of flowing water throughout the work. The melody reaches its climax with detailed and highly focused depiction of breakers or quietly flowing brooks and rivers. 

 

Sights, sounds and emotions are brought together in a bounteous land called China. The music opens and ends with a majestic solemnity that depicts the scaling mountain ranges enveloped by clouds and mist, as a poet conceives in the poem On the Three Gorges

 

Mount E and Mount Min are 

as high as ten thousand zhangs 

Gap Wu retains the west wind. 

But the flow of the river cannot be restrained 

And all streams flow towards the east.

- Chen Yi

  

* The background story to this piece was attributed to Boya of the Spring and Autumn Period. A master player of the qin, he found a soul mate in the woodcutter Zhong Ziqi. He adopted the Confucian concept that people of selfless virtue enjoy the mountains, and people of wisdom enjoy the waters. So the music actually originated as GaoshanLiushui (High Mountains and Flowing Water) in one piece. By the Tang Dynasty, it was divided into two works. Then by the Song Dynasty, it was further divided into several sections. The qin masters of the following Ming and Qing periods had also contributed their interpretations to perfect the piece. It is therefore a collective work of qin players of numerous generations in China.

 

** The music was commissioned by the HKCO and premiered in September 1986 at the concert 'Song of Peace' in the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, guest conducted by Yip Wai-hong.

 

 

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select

25-26/9/2020

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Northwest Suite No. 1
Composed by Tan Dun (1986)

This is a shorter and newly arranged version of the music for the dance drama, The Yellow Earth, by the composer. A lot of the music of northwestern China originates from the folk song genre, Xin Tian You - or 'wafting skyward', a way of singing in the open air that allows the voice to carry with the wind and reach as far as it can go. The sonorous, robust and confident singing carries with it a pained wistfulness. The composer has captured this complexity in his music through vivid tone colours and composite sounds, describing a people who are open-hearted, forthright, yet at the same time emotionally deep. This new arrangement consists of four sections:

 

God in Heaven, Grants Us Sweet Rain

Rousing Games in the Bridal Chamber

I Miss My Dear Love

Stone-slab Waist Drums

 

 

Soundscape

3-6/9/2001

Tuen Mun Town Hall, Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Huqin Concerto Fire Ritual
Composed by Tan Dun

Structurally this is a combination of the formats of ritualistic and court music in the Chinese tradition. For performance, two ensembles are stationed, one in the audience enclosure (with the players standing) and the other on stage (with the players sitting).  This is in the tradition of the ensemble formation system of the Tang Dynasty, with a Sedentary Section and a Standing Section. The conductor of the ensemble, then, is the High Priest and the Master of Ceremony.

 

The melodic materials and the sentiments of the huqin solo are in three parts: Part One – 'Narration', on the zhonghu; Part Two – 'Simplicity', on the erhu; Part Three – 'Sounds of Birds', on the gaohu. The entire piece is envisioned in the angle of Man and Nature, a ritual to appease the endless trials and tribulations of life, and a prayer for peace in the future.

 

Some of the melodic material of this work originates for the soundtrack music written by the composer for the film Nanjing: 1937. The composer dedicates this new work to the 300,000 Chinese compatriots killed in the Nanjing Massacre. It was commissioned by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in September 1995, and premiered in the concert for Hong Kong Arts Festival on 1st March 1996, Guest Conductor: Tan Dun.

 

 

The 2nd Huqin Festival of Hong Kong – Masters and Masterworks

26-27/6/2009

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Huqin: Yan Jiemin

A Thousand Sweeps (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / Premiere)
Composed by Law Wing-fai

The 'running' script in Chinese calligraphy emphasizes deft, flowing brush-strokes, with the characters often linked to one another in smooth undulating lines that mark the changes in rhythm and pace. Inspired by this artistic form, the composer seeks to convey in music the same expressive qualities of the pipa: the progress of sounds, complementing physical movements and form, linear flow and tempi.

 

A Thousand Sweeps is in four sections, each with its own title and associated mood. The first and last sections highlight the dramatic brilliance of the instrument, while intervening sections focus more on its delicate and lyrical qualities. Each section is based on one single idea that grows continuously and builds up to a focal point. The overall effect is one of uninterrupted flow, as if the whole piece has been accomplished in a single brush-stroke.

 

1. Breath-like 2. Silk-like 3. Water-like 4. Dragon-like

 

- Law Wing-fai

 

 

Happy Together

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra & Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Joint Concert

8/6/2006

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Wong Chi-ching

Tang Capriccio
Composed by Law Wing-fai

Inspired by three works of art of the Tang Dynasty – a painting, a poem and a handwritten note, the composer brings forth musical imagination through the distinctive timber of the Chinese Orchestra. This composition is in three movements:

 

The Grazing Scene (a painting by Wei Yan of Tang Dynasty)

This painting depicts the scene of a royal ranch which owns over a thousand horses. The picture is painted meticulously with fluent but bold strokes.

 

River in the Snow (a four-line poem with five characters to a line written by Liu Zong-yuan of the Tang Dynasty)

"From hill to hill no bird in flight; From path to path no man in sight; A straw-cloaked man in a dinghy. Fishing on river clad in snow lonely!" This poem depicts a simple scenario of bleak wilderness, and is regarded as a masterpiece.

 

Drunken Monk's Note (a cursive script written by Huai Su of Tang Dynasty)

The text of the Note reads as follows, "Not a drop of wine presented as gift is consumed. But a bottle of wine is hung under a pine tree all day long. The intention of posing as the grassroot champion gives rise to mental disorder. Thus a picture of Drunken Monk is ready to be painted." The handwriting in cursive script is imbued with abstract beauty in motion, and carries ebullient, uninhibited and peculiar flavours.

 

 

Tang Capriccio - Chinese Orchestral Works by Hong Kong Composers

27-28/5/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Flowing Phantasm
Composed by Law Wing-fai

Flowing Phantasm is not a fantasy for a space voyage among the stars, but a work inspired by childhood memories of rides on the Star Ferry, and the fascination of the neon lights as they were reflected and glittered on the surface of the seas. It is through this that I wish to express his memories of the old Ferry Pier.

 

Cadenzas of Hong Kong—Composers' Festival of Hong Kong 2010

30/4/2010 – 2/5/2010

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Symphonic Suite Sketches of the Guizhou Ranges (op. 23, 1982/2007)
Arranged by Zhu Jian'er based on his own composition (World Premiere of the Chinese Orchestral Version)

What the composer says:

With the premiere of this new arrangement of Sketches of the Guizhou Ranges, it would be the third time the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra performs my works, following the highly successful performances of the commissioned piece, A Sorrowful Tune, in 2006 and 2007. We are old friends now, and I am most delighted and honoured to be collaborating with a world-class orchestra like the HKCO, especially to see Mr. Yan Huichang and all the musician friends in the Orchestra again as we work on this concert.

 

- Zhu Jian'er

 

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In 1981, I went to live among the Miao and the Dong people in the four prefectures in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Region of Guizhou Province. It was an idyllic experience, the pastoral bliss and the captivating indigenous music inspiring in me so many new ideas for writing music. The result was this symphonic suite. Originally composed for western symphony orchestra, I re-arranged it for Chinese orchestra in 2007. The music is in four movements:

 

The first movement: The Lusheng Festival Contest

The lusheng is a reed instrument made up of multiple bamboo pipes of various lengths. The Lusheng Festival of the Dong minority is a popular occasion in which each village would send a lusheng team to compete in the contest. The mountains and valleys reverberate with the sounds of lusheng bands, each tuned to their own. The music employs instruments of three different timbres to represent three competing teams. As they play, the overlapping notes produce a rich acoustic effect and conjure up a vibrant, fun-filled scene.

 

The second movement: The Old Man Who Plays the Vertical Xiao

The xiao used by the Miao minority has a smooth round tone. The old musician is absorbed in his playing, deeply immersed in reminiscences of his past.

 

The third movement: Serenade on a Moonlight Night

Inspired by the 'pipa ballad singing' genre of the Dong minority, the music is in a unique mode which gives it character and lyrical appeal.

 

The fourth movement: A Feastday

On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the Miao minority celebrate the Fresh Crop Tasting Festival. People sing and dance in good cheer to celebrate the bumper harvest. Towards the middle section of this movement, the tune of a feigeappears, accompanied by the lusheng playing a 7/4 dance piece in the background. The feige is 'a song with wings', sung to one's beloved over a considerable distance, such as in the next village or on another hill.

 

- Zhu Jian'er

 

 

Composers' Festival of Hong Kong 2010

Music about China IV – Chinese Valentine's Day

A Programme of the 38th Hong Kong Arts Festival (2010)  

28/2/2010

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

A Sorrowful Tune
Composed by Zhu Jian'er

What the Composer says:

In 1965, I was on a field trip to the coastal region of Guangdong to understand the life of the fishing folk and to collect folk songs. Among the many beautiful tunes, there was one 'bitter song', which had such a movingly sad quality that it went straight to my heart. Two or three years ago, when the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra commissioned me to write a piece, I decided to use the material at hand and came up with A Sorrowful Tune.

 

The work as it is now has of course gone far beyond the scope of fishermen's songs. The musical thought has a much deeper concern: some lyrics of The Yellow River Cantata were revolving at the back of my mind, "A nation with five thousand years' history, with so much suffering…With such unbearable pain…" And from there my imagination took off. I also remembered the story of Meng Jian Nu whose wailing cry caused the Great Wall to fall, the injustice done to Dou E which brought snow in summer as Heaven also cried foul for her…There are so many sad stories that one could only lament the misfortunes that had happened to the common folks, or those that happened to the whole nation.

 

Traditional Chinese music has a single melodic line, and harmony is underdeveloped. In writing for the Chinese orchestra, I took a linear approach and used different lines with different character to form a network-like structure, so that each would be allowed a chance to express its depth of feelings. As for whether this structure works effectively, one needs the actual performance to test out.

 

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra is a famous orchestra in the world. I am grateful to Mr. Yan Huichang, Artistic Director and all the colleagues in the Orchestra for giving me such a valuable opportunity to work with them, and to allow my work to be heard by the people of Hong Kong. I am honoured indeed, and I look forward to your feedback.


- Zhu Jian'er

 

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The music opens with a basso ostinato that imitates a staggering gait of a person in distress, and from there the simple yet mournful theme appears. After a solo passage, the orchestra joins in. It is the voices of the people telling their own stories. The theme is echoed and supported by two subordinate subjects.

 

The theme of pathos is repeated twelve times on different instruments in different tonalities. Emotions are heightened as more instruments join in, climaxing to a sky rocking, earth-shaking break point before coming to a quietly reverberating close.


- Zhu Jian'er

 

* The music was commissioned and world premiered in April 2006 at the concert 'An East-West Crossover' by the HKCO, under the baton of Yan Huichang.

 

The 21st China Shanghai International Arts Festival Hong Kong Cultural Week and Festival Hong Kong 2019 - A Cultural Extravaganza@Shanghai Opening Performance

'A Cosmopolitan Symphony' Concert by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

1/11/2019

Shanghai Symphony Hall Main Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Three Melodies of West Yunnan
Composed by Guo Wenjing

The work Three Melodies of West Yunnan has taken fifteen years to complete: the first and second movements were written in 1993 and premiered by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in March 1994, with the third only completed in late 2008 and received its world premiere in February 2009. I have to thank Mr. Yan Huichang, Artistic Director of the HKCO, for his patience, tolerance and persistence.

 

The first movement: A Va Mountain

The music opens with brash percussion accompanied by a special al ligno effect on the plucked-string instruments, that is, the soundboards are sounded through the flicking of fingernails on them. A primitive scene is set. Then a largo is followed by an adagio doloroso, with the ancient and grave melodic figure alternating between the dadi and the strings. A melancholic passage in andante cantabile follows. The music maintains a rhythmic yet serious texture in both the exposition and development sections. The plodding progression moves from a pianissimo to a fortissimo close, pushing the work to its climactic ending.

 

The Va people mainly live in the mountainous regions of Yunnan, in the Ximeng, Cangyuan and Menglian prefectures between the Lancang River and the Sa'erwen River. It is a region of rugged terrain and very little flat land, and is known as A Va Mountain. The Va people practise pantheistic beliefs and a natural religion. Their customs used to include animal sacrifices of chickens, pigs and cattle to appease the ghosts. They also worship the wooden drum as spiritual objects. That is why they have such primitive religious activities as 'chopping off the oxtail' and 'pulling the wooden drums'.

 

The second movement: Jino Dance

This movement is not a light-hearted and brisk dance tune, but an allegretto piece that is of a sombre and stable character. It is indicative of the special characteristics of the people who live there. The middle section is in a free, folk ballad form, performed by three dongxiao in three different modalities. The work then changes back to allegretto and gradually fades out.

 

The Jino people mainly live in the Jino Region of Xishuang Banna in Yunnan. Being the original inhabitants of the area since time immemorial, they are an agrarian people, with tea planting their major occupation for a very long time. Jino Mountain is one of the six major plantations of pu'er tea in China. Ancestral worship and pantheism prevailed in the past, and the people also venerated Zhuge Liang, the legendary strategist of the Three Kingdoms Period (220 - 280). Religion is linked to every aspect of their life, including production and daily living.

 

The third movement: Sacrifice – Torches – Potent Liquors

This movement does not purport to describe any particular tribe in Yunnan, but is a collective description of scenes from the lives of various tribes that inhabit the province. The movement places its emphasis on those people who live in harmony and are at one with Nature, and their robust and rough-hewn character.


- Guo Wenjing

 

* Three Melodies of West Yunnan was commissioned by the HKCO. The first and second movements were premiered in March 1994 at the concert 'Yunnan Passion' held at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, under the baton of Yoshikazu Fukumura. The third movement was world premiered in February 2009 at the concert 'Music about China 3 – Guo Wenjing's World of Chinese Music' held at Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, under the baton of Yan Huichang.

 

Shanghai Expo

Shanghai Spring International Music Festival – Pre-tour Concert

5/8/2010

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Dizi Concerto Chou-Kong-Shan (Sorrowful, Desolate Mountain) - for zhudi and Chinese orchestra
Composed by Guo Wenjing

Written in October 1992, this work is my first concerto for Chinese ethnic instruments. The 'mountain' has been a recurrent theme in the music I wrote, and this probably has much to do with the fact that I was born in Chongqing, a city built on the mountains in the southwest of China. The Chinese title of this work is taken from Hard Are the Ways of Sichuan, a long poem by the Tang dynasty poet Li Bai, in which he writes about the historical myths associated with the mountains of the province, and paints vivid verbal pictures of the steep cliffs and gorges, and the rapturous downpour of waterfalls.

 

The first movement: Lento

The images and contents of this movement may be summarized by these two verses from Hard Are the Ways of Sichuan: "Once again I hear the cuckoo crowing in the moonlight, lamenting the sorrowful, desolate mountains". The sighing motif and the paixiao (pan-pipe) which appear at the beginning convey precisely, through their tone colours, the sad, solitary and misty sentiments that the work seeks to depict. Then the solo dizi enters and, by dint of the technique of cyclical breathing, an 'impossibly long' note is sounded, with which the audience is transported to a scene of endless, rolling ranges.

 

The second movement: Allegro

This movement is imbued with the exotic colours of the minority tribes who live in the southwest of China. The zhudi (Chinese bamboo flute), played with the technique of cyclical breathing with double thrusts, produces an unbroken stream of dynamic music that conjures up a panorama of splendorous fields under the sun.

 

The third movement: Andante-Allegro

Once again the idea is borrowed from the long poem Hard Are the Ways of Sichuan: "With one soldier standing guard in front of the pass, not ten thousand can assail this citadel. In the morning the traveler has to avoid the fierce tigers, and at night the long pythons. These creatures have sharpened their teeth and sucked human blood, countless are the people who have succumbed to their fangs." These lines make up the gist of the movement. The tragic overtone is brought out through intense and heavy drum beats and the mellow sounds of the solo bass dadi. I believe that my contribution to Chinese ethnic music through this work is in changing the preconception that the Chinese dizi is inevitably an instrument depicting robust joy, being penetratingly bright, lighthearted, and played in the upper register. With this work the dizi is, for the first time, successfully vested with a tragically and intense dramatic power it has never had before.


- Guo Wenjing

 

Closing Concert of 2013 Chinese Composers' Festival

7/12/2013

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Dizi: Tang Junqiao

Gehu Concerto Zhuang Zhou's Dream
Composed by Zhao Jiping

Let music roam free in a dream - in the style of the famous rhetoric adage on life by Zhuang Zhou, the great philosopher of China who lived in the 4th Century BCE, "Is it but Zhuang Zhou's dream of a butterfly? Or a butterfly's dream of Zhuang Zhou?" This concerto for cello and Chinese orchestra seeks to give an inspiring musical interpretation of the Dao, or the 'Way', of Zhuang.

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

* The cello concerto version of this work was commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and was premiered at the concert entitled 'Yo-Yo Ma & HKCO – 2008 New Vision Arts Festival', held on 8th November 2008 at the Concert Hall of Hong Kong Cultural Centre, conducted by Yan Huichang, cello solo by Yo-Yo Ma. Gehu concerto version was premiered at the concert entitled 'HKCO Concert in Chengdu', held on 11th September 2011 at Jiaozi Musical Hall, Chengdu Art Center, conducted by Yan Huichang, Gehu solo by Tung Hiu Lo.

 

 

China Tour 2017 – Shanghai

The 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR

6/6/2017

Shanghai Poly Grand Theatre

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

 

~ The recording was produced with the sole purpose of marking the special occasion and for documentary purpose. It is not a studio production where stringent, professional standards are expected and met.

Festival at Chang'an
Composed by Zhao Jiping and Lu Rirong

The music is inspired by the Qinqiang music of Shaanxi, and combined with the rhythm of folk percussion music to illustrate the songs and dance celebrations of the local people of old Xi'an on feast days.

 

 

A Historic Dialogue - The Symphonic Chinese Music of Zhao Jiping

13/4/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Erhu Concerto The Great Wall Capriccio
Composed by Liu Wenjin

The Great Wall Capriccio was composed between 1980 and 1982, and premiered at the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival in May 1982, with Qu Chunquan conducting the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and Min Huifen as the erhu soloist. The work won a Class One Award at the Third National Music Compositions Appraisal.

 

The Great Wall is the culmination of the efforts of labourers of ancient China. Like a mighty dragon, it sprawls in the east of the world, forming a symbol of the unity, strength and wisdom of the Chinese race. The work is in the form of a suite and the erhu and the orchestra interacts in concerto style. Efforts are made to express the various emotional responses of people climbing up to the Great Wall.

 

This composition is in four movements:

 

The first movement: Journey to the Great Wall

This introduction, slow and solemn, mimics the deep and grave tone of some ancient instruments, bell, qing and gong. The accompaniment is in triplets. The crescendo presents the partly hidden and partly visible Great Wall shrouded in mist and clouds. With percussion and wind instruments, the whole orchestra subsequently plays the grand and vigorous subject which depicts the Wall standing erect on top of the mountains after the clouds have dispersed. The theme tries to convey the excitement of the people who have mounted the wall and visited the passes, and also their pride of monument. The tune played by the erhu seems to recollect, ponder and sing in a grave mood... It presents a picturesque natural scenery of a vast expanse of land and sky to the north of the border where mountain peaks rise one above the other in the distance....

 

The second movement: Beacon Fire

This movement is fast, forceful, vehement and varied. The beacon fire was associated with war in ancient times. This movement depicts the countless sons of China who stepped into the battlefield to replace others who had fallen in fierce fighting to defend their motherland. The music is extended to depict a war scene with countless troops and horses and clanking of swords and spears. The various compositional techniques involved in this movement include the erhu's saltarello bowing, fast changing scales of different modes and the whole-tone scale, gradually condensed Matui (horse gallop), traditional Peking Opera percussion patterns, discordant broken diminished seventh chord. When the erhu reaches the highest note of the arpeggiated diminished seventh chord, the line descends rapidly and the music calms down. In the following coda, a soft passage played by the erhu and orchestra presents a picture of ravages of war under the moon with corpses strewn over the battlefield inside and outside the Wall. The erhu then plays ritenuto and subito forte to extol the exemplary bravery of the sons of China.

 

The third movement: The Memorial Ceremony for Fallen Defenders

It is made up of adagio, largo, cadenza and climactic sections. The subdued and grievous notes, punctuated by solemn bell tolls, bring out the subtle, pious, and plaintive theme on the erhu. This gradually develops into agitated and passion-charged sections showing high emotional upsurges and a generosity in both attitude and mind. Orchestration is skillfully employed to provide accompaniment, at times imitating the resonance of ancient bells, and at other times the sounds of a male chorus. These sounds, produced in responsorial sequences, have greatly enhanced the tragic gravity of the occasion being depicted. They also help to express the respect and veneration of the Chinese people for those who, though nameless, gave their lives during the past millennia in defence of the country. The cadenza passage for the erhu and the magnificent, passionate and broad climax for the orchestra at the end serve well to integrate and sublimate the various emotions involved, and to perpetuate the past for the edification of those who are to come.

 

The fourth movement: Look into the Distance

It is made up of an andante with florid melody and robust rhythm, a determined duoban leading to an allegretto, a broad andante, a cantabile adagio and a brilliant coda. On the basis of a robust and determined rhythm, the erhu appears in variation to rediscover the first theme, and the music grows in brightness, intense and full of imaginative colours. Following this is a dance-like melody which opens up a new tonal vista for the listener. The crisp, metallic notes of the duoban develop into the allegretto with an undaunted, indomitable dynamism. The grandeur and majesty of the coda is a variation and expansion of the theme in the introduction, and reiterates the Chinese people's firm belief that a bright and glorious future awaits.


- Liu Wenjin

 

 

A New Year Concert with Chinese Music Virtuosi

18/1/2013

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Erhu: Song Fei

Journey to Lhasa
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

Lhasa is the Tibetan word for 'Holy Land' or 'Land of the Buddha'. An ancient city with a history of over 1,300 years, it is also called the City of Sunlight, because it has 3,005 hours of sunshine each year. The sky is always blue and the gilt roofs of the monasteries sparkle in the clear light of the sun. These ancient monasteries house many rare objects of historical and artistic value. Together with these magnificent and beautiful thousand-year-old edifices, Lhasa, the holy city on the 'Ridge of the World', attracts the world with its enigmatic charm.

 

1st Movement: Potala Palace

The Potala Palace is said to be built in the 7th Century by Songzanganbu, King of Tibet, for his bride, the Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty. The monastery was built like a fortified castle and stands majestically on the cliff of the mountains. The music begins with low notes imitating the broad, sonorous vanguard horns of the lamas, slowly pushing open the heavy doors of the Potala Palace. Meanwhile, the strains of the strings conjure up the scene of the Main Hall where incense smoke spiral up and waft in the air, and treasures gleam and glow in the light…

 

2nd Movement: Yalu Zangbo River

Running towards the south of Lhasa, the Yalu Zangbo is the most important river in Tibet. It not only gave life to the people of Tibet, but also was the source of Tibetan Culture. The music sings of a wide, rapidly flowing river and sighs how the years swiftly go by.

 

3rd Movement: Heavenly Burial

In the Tibetan language, 'duchuijiewa' means to send a corpse to the burial ground. The priest officiating at this ceremony first offers sacrifices to the gods. The vultures, seeing the fire and the smoke, will then descend and gather round. The priest cuts the corpse into pieces, and then sounds his conch or shouts loud long to the heavens. The vultures will then  flock around and consume the cut-up remains until there is nothing left. In the first section of this movement the guzheng is played in dialogue with the strings, as a prelude to this rather gruesome scene. The sound of the corpse being dismembered is at once terrifying and enticing.

 

The tradition of heavenly burial is in line with a Tibetan Buddhism concept, that 'the Bodhisatva's greatness is in his readiness to give up his own body to nurture creatures of the world'. This also suggests one's path to enlightenment. It is an exhortation to the world that all, including one's own body, may be given for others. As the orchestra enters an allegro passage, the music is mixed with loud shouts, wailing cries, chanting of the prayers, and the sound of vultures fighting for food. After the tumult comes the rising notes of the strings, against which the xylophone tinkles in depiction of the tears on the faces of the mourners.

 

4th Movement: Beating Ghosts

'Jiduo' is the Tibetan word for the feast of exorcism. It falls on the 29th of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, when the lamas of Potala Palace will put on disguise as wicked ghosts. They dance and are ceremonially chased around. The dance is meant to exorcise the country and rid it of evil spirits in anticipation of the New Year. In the evening, families gather together to drink 'tuba' and burn incense, and offer prayers for peace and good fortune.

 

The composer here employs modern complex rhythms to depict a scene that is at once full of religious vigour and mysteriousness. The themes of the first three movements faintly appear and then fade away, - a reminder of their traditional concepts. The music culminates to a boisterous and prayerful close.

 

Premiered in December 1984, Journey to Lhasa was awarded 'Most Performed Original Local Serious Work' in 1987 and 2000 by the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong and voted one of the audience favourites in the '1999/2000 Chinese Music Select'.

 

*The exotic instrument used in this piece: Bawu (Lee Chung-chi)

 

Terra Cotta Warriors Fantasia

3-6/9/2001

Tuen Mun Town Hall Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Life on the Plateaux
Composed by He Zhanhao

People who live on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateaux are a rustic lot. Living close to the earth, their hearts are innocent, pure, and filled with love. Their unique lifestyle is seen in the beautiful songs they sing, which tell of their lingering thoughts for family and their lovers. Their musical idiom is like a clear, sparkling brook, with a limpid sweetness that cannot be found elsewhere.  

 

The music is in four movements:

 

The first movement: Mountain View from a Yi Village

This is based on a Yi folk tune and its variations, and is a depiction of the scenic, sprawling forests on the plateaux. The melody develops in a lyrical strain, energized by the joyous, leaping rhythm throughout.

 

The second movement: Love between the Door and the Walls

A young man comes to the door of a girl's home at night and sings of his love for her, accompanying himself on a single-string huqin. How can her heart not be touched? So she invites him in. They tell each other of their love, then begin to dance, ecstatically immersed in a world of their own. This way of courtship is unique to the young people of the Yi tribe, and is imbued with romantic lyricism.

 

The third movement: Love of the Lusheng

The lusheng is a wind instrument and young men of the Miao ethnic group play it to show their love for the maidens of their dreams. This simple way of courtship that dates back long ago displays the rustic charm of the Miao people. The Miaos have a history - the Chinese myth of Creation by Pangu originates from their mythology. One cannot help wondering how a tribe with such a long history can retain such rustic innocence?

 

The fourth movement: The Singing Contest

Songs of yearning would lead us to a beautiful future; people that love to sing are always optimistic about tomorrow.

 

This is a joyous Yi tune. Its beautiful melody comes from the Buyi, one of the Miao tribes. On this occasion, the sonorous singing of the various tribes, called 'flying songs' by the Miao people, comes from all directions to form an ocean of surging sounds and joy.

                                       

* The music was commissioned by the HKCO and premiered at 'The Music of He Zhanhao and Richard Tsang' concert held at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall in August 2000, under the baton of He Zhanhao.

 

 

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select II – A Musical Sojourn of Indigenous China

13/11/2020

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang  

Lusheng: Wei Shen-fu, Yuen Kin Hei

Dance Music of the Hu Nationality
Composed by He Zhanhao

History records that dance music of the Hu Nationality was at its most popular in the Sui Dynasty. The Hu dance was an exotic combination of the dance forms of north India and Persia, but the music had been long lost. The composer employed the characteristics of Persian and oriental music to make this creditable imitation of the lost melodies.

 

Concert of Works by He Zhanhao

14/8/1987

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: He Zhanhao

Festival Horse Racing
Composed by He Zhanhao

The people of Xinjiang celebrate feast days with horse racing. The first half of the music shows how everyone. Young and old, man and woman, rushes to the racecourse on horseback. There is a lot of happiness and joy among them. The second half depicts the excitement at the racecourse and the piece is brought to a joyful climax amidst the baying of horses.

 

Valentine's Concert 2008

12/2/2008

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: He Zhanhao

Vocal and Orchestra Eighteen Variations on a Hu Pipe Melody
Composed by Ng Tai-kong
Lyrics by Cai Wenji

Eighteen Variations on a Hu Pipe Melody was attributed to Cai Wenji, daughter of Cai Yong, a famous historian and writer in the last years of the Han Dynasty. Cai Wenji herself was a learned woman with exceptional music acumen. The present qin version of Eighteen Variations on a Hu Pipe Melody was from a book of scores dated 1611, compiled by Sun Chengxian. The tablature was based on a wood-block print of the Song Dynasty.

 

The poignant music was in the form of a vocal suite. It describes the life of the writer, Cai Wenji herself. The last years of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) was fraught with wars and political unrest. Cai was captured by the Xiongnu (Huns) and later, married a Xiongnu prince, with whom she spent twelve years. When the war between the Han and the Xiongnu was over, the prime minister of Han, Cao Cao, paid a large ransom for her release, but she had already given birth to a son and a daughter. According to legend, Eighteen Variations on a Hu Pipe Melody was composed when Cai Wenji was on the way back to China. The music therefore is an emotional outpouring of her demise – a victim of war, her pining for her homeland in China, and her longing for her husband and children when she had to go. The music is a fine blend of Han and Hun music, written with sensitivity, lyricism and a rich timbre.

 

The present arrangement by Ng Tai-kong is based on the first, third, twelfth and eighteenth sections. In the prelude, Ng describes the ravages of war: people dying, fugitives fleeing, the chaos, the soldiers …. From this background, the solo voice of the female protagonist emerges. She describes her devastations with deep feelings.  The orchestra replaces the self-accompanied singing in the original work, and gives an almost cinematic rendering of scenes.

 

The First Song

When I was young, the country was peaceful.

Later the Han court declined.

Heaven inflicted chaos and separation,

Earth landed me in this dire situation!

The roads were fraught with dangers of war,

People fled their homes in misery.

The northern barbarians were victorious,

Their minds warped and morals deficient.

I didn't take to the foreign customs,

Who should I tell of my humiliation?

I play the hujia pipe and the lute in turn,

No one understands my angst and grief!

 

The Third Song

I crossed the Han border into barbarian land,

Lost my family and my chastity in a fate worse than death!

The fur I wore was harsh on the body,

Mutton and milk were not to my taste:

Loud drums were played all through the night,

In the northern wind and dimly lit yurts.

The Third Beat is my nostalgia and melancholy,

When can I forget my sorrows and regrets?

 

The Twelfth Song

The balmy wind from the East was blowing,

I knew the Han court had declared peace.

The barbarians were singing and dancing,

The two countries were friends again.

Then a Han envoy arrived with an imperial order,

To free me in exchange for a hefty sum.

I was lucky to live to see the emperor again,

Though I would never see my young sons again.

 

The Eighteenth Song

Originally a barbarian instrument,

The hujia pipe can be played with the Chinese lute in harmony.

Though the Eighteenth is the end of the song,

The music lingers and the thoughts never stop.

The magic of music is a gift from heaven,

Sorrow and happiness depend on one's state of mind.

Barbarian and Han are different and far apart,

Like heaven and earth, my sons and I are separated.

My misery is greater than the vast sky,

The universe, though boundless, cannot contain it!

 

*Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at the 'An Evening of Arranged Melodies' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall on May 21, 1983, conducted by Ng Tai-kong.

 

 

Hundred Concerts of Chinese Music Showcase

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra Concert

27-28/11/2009

National Centre for the Performing Arts Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Soprano: Wu Bixia

Guqin: Zhou Yi

Chance Encounter
Composed by Ng Tai-kong

Chance encounters are the work of Fate. With fate on one's side, one's path can cross with another who lives thousands of miles away. However, meetings between people can bring good or bad consequences. Although fate is uncontrollable, the composer tries to portray the positive side of destiny. There are four short movements in this work.

 

First Movement Undefined

From the undefined Realm of the Unknown, the unchosen chance has begun. Was the plot planned or picked? By one or by none?  

 

Second Movement Awareness

It signs and expresses in sight and sound. Through the symbols one learns to know. He who cares becomes aware of what comes to pass, and passes to go.  

 

Third Movement Acceptance

Since it be so, then so be it.

Joy or sorrow, bond or part.

Beauty is the flame of life.

Life itself the art.  

 

Fourth Movement Blankness

Fill with faith that faces the lot,

The sea of pangs that reaches no bank.

Reality roots in naught that transpires in a blank.

 

 

Tang Capriccio - Chinese Orchestral Works by Hong Kong Composers

27-28/5/1999

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Autumn Execution
Composed by Doming Lam

Chapter 1. Arrival of a corrupt official, upheaval of injustice.

The melody in septuplet meter portrays the scene of soldiers marching into the city.

 

Chapter 2. The pious daughter-in-law, sentenced to death at court.

The multiple symphonic sounds of the orchestra expresses the stylistic acting poses of Beijing opera: the suona sounds out the presiding judge's solemn yelling order, the sound of dongxiao describes the helpless woman's mentality and Leiqin sounds out her grievances.  

 

Chapter 3. The cry of injustice, heaven and earth are shocked.

The melodic materials of this passage are based on the motif – the linguistic tune of the words (in Cantonese) "Cry of Injustice". The calculated and well-controlled 'improvisation' technique brings forth the unexpected lively overtone.  

 

Chapter 4. The sad departure and remembrance of the good old days.  

The orchestra turns into a small ensemble with solo instruments, it serenely depicts the heartfelt thinking of despair and helplessness in life on the eve of execution.  

 

Chapter 5. The execution comes, snow falls in June.

Under the escort of the mounted police the execution was conducted amidst a round of scattered sound of guzheng and yangqin. The following tune played by the dongxiao brings forth the looming restless aggrieved soul of the victim, and brings the whole piece to a close.

 

- Doming Lam

 

This composition commissioned in 1978, was a milestone in the progress of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra when it attempted to become modernized and symphonic over the past ten years. Its premiere was conducted by the composer and it subsequently gave rise to a craze for innovative Chinese musical composition in the local music world.  

 

Its style is obviously under the influence of The Injustice of Tou O, a qu (a type of verse for singing, popular in the Yuan Dynasty) by Guan Hanqing. The titles of the five chapters are also similar to Guan's work.  

 

It is chosen to be one of the greatest Chinese Classical Composition of the 20th century in 1993 (Beijing).  

 

* It was arrangement commissioned and premiere in November 1978 by the HKCO. 

 

 

In Search of Chinese New Music - Works by Doming Lam

20-22/2/2006

Tsuen Wan Town Hall Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

The Insect World
Composed by Doming Lam

This work is an experimental piece which stretches the combination of Chinese tonalities, modalities, harmony, timbres and textures. It is in five sections:

 

1.  The Busy Bees

Little bees, buzzing by,

Fly to the east and fly to the west,

Making honey and never rest.

 

2.  The Dragonflies

Little dragonflies, naughty and nifty,

Are like aeroplanes in flight.

They land on blossoms which smile,

And on pools which ripply whirl.

 

3.  The Silk Worms

The silk worms spit out silky threads

To make their new clothes of cocoon;

Steadfastly, slowly, they work,

Never stopping until they die.

 

4.  The Butterflies

How graceful are the butterflies,

Playfully dancing among the flowers and bushes.

Free from worry and free from care,

They make happy couples everywhere.

 

5.  The Insect World

Little insects, there are so many species:

Hustling, bustling, you and I are so busy.

We share the nature we love

In such happy harmony.

 

- Doming Lam

 

* This music was commissioned by the HKCO and premiered in August 1979 at the 'Concert by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in Celebration of the International Year of the Child' held at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall, under the baton of Doming Lam.

 

 

In Search of Chinese New Music - Works by Doming Lam

20-22/2/2006

Tsuen Wan Town Hall Auditorium

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Fantasia The Terra Cotta Warriors
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

The excavation of the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin and the terra cotta warriors roused the world to attention. In the history of China, the First Emperor, in the span of 10 years, between 230 and 221 BC, conquered the six dukedoms of Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi to form a unified China. However, the people were unable to bear his tyrannical rule and the Qin dynasty lasted only 13 years. Despite its title, this is not a piece literally about the terra cotta warriors. It is meant to depict Qin soldiers who suffered immensely from the fact that they were on combat assignments year after year. They were always away from their homeland, and they missed parents, wives and children who longed for their return. Hence the "Fantasia" form. The work is in three movements:

 

1. Discipline is Strict in the Army: When Will the Emperor Get Tired of Traveling and Offering Sacrifices on Various Sacred Mountains?

 

The music begins quietly to describe the army in progress at dawn. Military horns are vaguely heard. The sound is heard from afar but is getting nearer and nearer, bringing out the theme of an ancient army advancing. The second theme in this movement is an expression of the soldiers' distress. The movement ends with a fanfare on both the wind instruments and the drums which signify the appearance of the Emperor and his entourage. Then the gongs and cymbals are sounded to stop the advance and to indicate that tents are to be pitched.

 

 

2. Spring Dreams: Soldiers Missing Their Wives

 

In the second movement, the music begins with depiction of the quiet of the night and the sound of wood blocks, which represents guards doing their rounds. In this quiet the weeping songs of soldiers are heard. It is the sound of men missing their homeland and very soon other soldiers are affected and induced to song. This brings up a chorus which gradually leads the men to a dream. The wood blocks are also meant to represent wives pounding garments when they are doing the laundry for their husbands. Here a haunting melody is heard on the zheng but, as the soldiers dream about being together with their families, the sound of a gong rudely breaks their dreams.

 

 

3. A Ten Thousand Mile March across Snowy Mountains

 

This features a reappearance of the theme of the first movement. The mood and the configuration of instruments, however, are all changed. The army is still in progress and the Emperor's procession is as before. But a cold wind has risen and the sky becomes dark and cloudy. Snow begins to fall. At this time the music becomes somber and the military theme now appears in the tragically heroic horns. The whole work ends in heightened emotions.

 

Liu Bang, Xiang Yu and the Terra Cotta Warriors

1/9/2018

Esplanade Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Bianzhong and Orchestra Three Variations on a Plum Blossom Melody Ancient Tune
Arranged by Peng Xiuwen (1980)

Three Variations on a Plum Blossom Melody is believed to date back to the Jin Dynasty (265-420), and popularized at the time by Huan Yi on the dizi. It was later adapted for the qin by the Tang Dynasty author and linguist Yan Shigu.

 

Today's performance is Peng Xiuwen's adaptation of the guqin rendition performed by Wu Jinglue and notated by Xu Jian. To suit the bianzhong and the orchestra, major changes have been made, including shortening the piece.

 

The plum blossom's hardiness and fragrant white flowers are attributes often used to portray moral excellence and exalted ideals in humankind. Such a comparison can also be found in the five sections of the abridged bianzhong arrangement, which comprises an Introduction, Wisps of Subtle Fragrance, Dominating the Snow Flakes, Flourishing in Bitter Cold, and a Conclusion.

 

In Tribute – The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Bianzhong: Luk Kin Bun

Tutti

Hong Kong - the City that Never Sleeps (Summer Night from A Song of the Four Seasons)
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

This is the second movement of the Four Seasons suite. It was the last to be completed in 1981, though the composition of the suite began in 1977. The theme revolves around the city of Hong Kong, and the beautiful night scenery which left an impression on the composer.

 

The styles of Guangdong (Cantonese) and Chaozhou music were used in the music to depict this city in the south. What I want to show here is not the glitzy, mercenary side of Hong Kong, but the city's beautiful scenery and the robust spirit of the people living in it.

 

- Peng Xiuwen

 

In Tribute - The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Finding the Light (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere) (Selected from the 'HKCO Net Festival – With New Tunes, We Connect')
Composed by Leung Hong-yu

When I was composing this piece, Hong Kong was facing a downturn in the pandemic. Things that we thought are the norm quickly became extremely precious in an instance. It was under the pandemic that I've learned to cherish the things more that are around me. It is a gift that a live concert could be held now, and I am very grateful for that. I hope that the music will bring a modicum of hope and courage for the audience to face the future and overcome the pandemic in this difficult era!
 

-Leung Hong-yu

 

The 45th Season Opening Concert

One Hundred Chinese Music Classics Select III - Peony Pavilion and The Yellow Earth

17-18/9/2021

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Jing.Qi.Shen
Composed by Chan Ming-chi

In East-Asian philosophy concepts 'Qi' is the inherent vitality in all-living things within the universe; it has the quality of internal cohesive power which is linked to the deeper connotations of life. Accordingly, 'Qi' is able to bring about creation and transformation, as well as being all embracing; and amid the contrast and the integration between the two opposing poles – 'Yin' and 'Yang' it contains, 'Qi' exhibits endless robust energy of life. Thus, in the hall of fame of arts 'the turnover of Qi' naturally becomes the source of creative works and life force.  

 

The work is based on the cyclic recurrence of life in the universe, which is represented by different musical figures, tone colour of special shifts and variation. It also makes use of dynamic and static co-ordination and transformation within the rhythmic figures in 'Yin' and 'Yang' contrasting the void with substance, to express a sort of lilting beauty, albeit with equal emphasis on gentleness. This is an idea embraced by the East-Asian culture. The work also reflects the unflagging and indomitable 'Jing'; 'Qi'; 'Shen' as well as the enterprising spirit which is much cherished by Chinese. This piece was selected as one of the 'Ten Recommended Pieces 2001' by the International Music Council of UNESCO.

 

- Chan Ming-chi

 

* This music was commissioned by the HKCO and premiered in February 1998 at the 'Hong Kong Arts Festival – Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra' concert held at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, guest conducted by Richard Tsang.

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020  

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

The Hallow-e’en Dances - Second Movement: The Dance of the Blind bats
Composed by Dirk Brossé

What the composer says:

As a Western composer, I am naturally influenced by Western music and culture. While composing The Hallow-e'en Dances, however, I tried to combine my Western style with Chinese instruments and sounds. The result is a mix of my story, which is the music itself, and the sounds and the possibilities of the Chinese instruments of the Chinese orchestra. While I was writing, I was faced with a dilemma: should I write Chinese music or should I write Western music? In other words, should I write pentatonic music or should I write in chromatic scales, which is more European. It took me a while to make my decision, but now I am happy to say that it has become a mixture of 3 styles: European chromatic style, universal contemporary style and pentatonic style.  

 

- Dirk Brossé

 

Halloween is a very special holiday, enjoyed throughout the world. It was already being celebrated long before Christianity, as the night when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest and the souls of the dead reach back to touch the world of the living. It is a night when the spirits dance and magic and fantasy prevail. This is a great inspiration for me as a composer; I too can break through that veil and let my imagination run wild. Everything about Halloween inspired me: black cats, skeletons, jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins, witches, bats, trick-or-treating – a wealth of choice. I took two Halloween highlights and translated them into music.

 

The Trick-or-Treat Dance tells a very amusing story. In my mind's eye, I see two children on their way to a Halloween party. It is night time, and they pass all sorts of creepy and perilous places. Everywhere they look, they see pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns. As they pass the old church, the gears of the church clock start to whir. They decide to stop and play for a while in the graveyard. There they meet mysterious creatures, little skeletons, for instance. They have a wonderful time and truly enjoy themselves. This story is a cross-over, fantasy seeps through and mixes with reality. It inspired me to write an interesting movement.

 

The Dance of the Blind Bats depicts the heroic flight of a cloud of bats. Their elastic and unpredictable movements as they flit through the nighttime air are quite similar to the movements of ballet dancers on a ballet floor. If we encounter them in real life, we are afraid of them. They look frightening, they live by night, they fly extremely fast and they make unusual noises. When they are flying in a group, their calls are even more unusual, almost like music, they have a rhythm: dakdakdak. And when they sing, they make high-pitched noises: bibibibibibi. I tried to capture these sounds using Chinese instruments….

 

- Dirk Brossé

 

* The music was commissioned and world premiered by the HKCO in October 2010 at the 'New Vision Arts Festival - The Mystic Realm' concert, under the baton of Dirk Brossé.

 

Music about China X Chinese Music Without Bounds - A Programme of the 44th Hong Kong Arts Festival  

27/2/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Legend of the Condor Heroes
Composed by Joseph Koo
Compiled by Yan Huichang and Chan Ming-chi

This is one of the popular theme song of television drama series in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia in the 1970s and 1980s.


Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra at the National Centre for the Performing Arts: From Classics to Modernity

26/1/2008

National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Memories (The Fourth Movement of The Desert Smoke Suite)
Composed by Zhao Jiping

You said you liked this movement - every time you heard it, your eyes would overflow like a fountain, a river of tears. It was as if you knew, or you felt what was coming; it was as if deep in you, it was already your… The phrases in my music are flowing with your endless thoughts; my life is encircled by wisps of your humming song. Sitting here, there used to be you, there used to be me, but now you're gone, to heaven so faraway… What is left, is only music that would say what we will; even before the music rises, my heart is raining with tears.

 

- Zhao Jiping

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Sheng: Chen Yi-wei

Organ: Jonathan Scott

Morphing in Oneness
Composed by Ng Cheuk-yin

The world is constantly changing. Rain or shine, high or low, just face all challenges and adversities with an open mind and a modest heart. Stay on the path you have chosen and keep going.

A Va Mountain (Excerpt from the First Movement of Three Melodies of West Yunnan)
Composed by Guo Wenjing

The work Three Melodies of West Yunnan has taken fifteen years to complete: the first and second movements were written in 1993 and premiered by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in March 1994, with the third only completed in late 2008 and received its world premiere in February 2009. I have to thank Mr Yan Huichang, Artistic Director of the HKCO, for his patience, tolerance and persistence.

 

The First Movement: A Va Mountain

The music opens with brash percussion accompanied by a special al ligno effect on the plucked-string instruments, that is, the soundboards are sounded through the flicking of fingernails on them. A primitive scene is set. Then a largo is followed by an adagio doloroso, with the ancient and grave melodic figure alternating between the dadi and the strings. A melancholic passage in andante cantabile follows. The music maintains a rhythmic yet serious texture in both the exposition and development sections. The plodding progression moves from a pianissimo to a fortissimo close, pushing the work to its climactic ending.

 

The Va people mainly live in the mountainous regions of Yunnan, in the Ximeng, Cangyuan and Menglian prefectures between the Lancang River and the Sa'erwen River. It is a region of rugged terrain and very little flat land, and is known as A Va Mountain. The Va people practise pantheistic beliefs and a natural religion. Their customs used to include animal sacrifices of chickens, pigs and cattle to appease the ghosts. They also worship the wooden drum as spiritual objects. That is why they have such primitive religious activities as 'chopping off the oxtail' and 'pulling the wooden drums'.

 

Klara Festival

2/9/2009

Henry Le Boeuf Hall, Bozar, the Centre for Fine Arts

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Fantasia The Terra Cotta Warriors (Excerpts)
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

The excavation of the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin and the terra cotta warriors roused the world to attention. In the history of China, the First Emperor, in the span of ten years, between 230 and 221 BC, conquered the six dukedoms of Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi to form a unified China. However, the people were unable to bear his tyrannical rule and the Qin dynasty lasted only 13 years. This is not a piece about the terra cotta warriors, despite its title. It is meant to depict Qin soldiers who suffered immensely from the fact that they were on combat assignments year after year. They were always away from their homeland, and they missed parents, wives and children who longed for their return. Hence the "Fantasia" form. The work is in three movements:



1. Discipline is Strict in the Army: When Will the Emperor Get Tired of Traveling and Offering Sacrifices on Various Sacred Mountains?


The music begins quietly to describe the army in progress at dawn. Military horns are vaguely heard. The sound is heard from afar but is getting nearer and nearer, bringing out the theme of an ancient army advancing. The second theme in this movement is an expression of the soldiers' distress. The movement ends with a fanfare on both the wind instruments and the drums which signify the appearance of the Emperor and his entourage. Then the gongs and cymbals are sounded to stop the advance and to indicate that tents are to be pitched.



2. Spring Dreams: Soldiers Missing Their Wives


In the second movement, the music begins with depiction of the quiet of the night and the sound of wood blocks, which represents guards doing their rounds. In this quiet the weeping songs of soldiers are heard. It is the sound of men missing their homeland and very soon other soldiers are affected and induced to song. This brings up a chorus which gradually leads the men to a dream. The wood blocks are also meant to represent wives pounding garments when they are doing the laundry for their husbands. Here a haunting melody is heard on the zheng but, as the soldiers dream about being together with their families, the sound of a gong rudely breaks their dreams.



3. A Ten Thousand Mile March across Snowy Mountains


This features a reappearance of the theme of the first movement. The mood and the configuration of instruments, however, are all changed. The army is still in progress and the Emperor's procession is as before. But a cold wind has risen and the sky becomes dark and cloudy. Snow begins to fall. At this time the music becomes somber and the military theme now appears in the tragically heroic horns. The whole work ends in heightened emotions.



Maestro Peng Xiuwen - A Tribute

10/10/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Solo/Concerto

Pipa and Orchestra King Chu Doffs His Armour 
Arranged by Kuan Nai-chung
Compiled by Lin Shicheng

This is one of the exemplary works of the 'military category' of pipa music. The earliest known score was found in Hua Qiuping’s Pipa Scores, and later was also included in Li Fangyuan's Thirteen Sets of New Pipa Scores of the Northern and Southern Schools. The number of sections was also expanded. While Li attributed the piece to Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty, there was insufficient proof of this. However, the score in Li's collection has become the basis on which later arrangements were worked. It has a total of fifteen sections: 1. the camp drum; 2. assembly; 3. appointing the generals; 4. forming the squadrons; 5. the battle array; 6. marching forth; 7. in close combat; 8. the battle at Gaixia; 9. the Song of the Chu; 10. parting with Lady Yu; 11. the sound of drums, horns and armour; 12. the breaking through; 13. in close pursuit; 14. chasing away the horses; and 15. the victorious return.

 

As a representative work in the 'Southern school', this pipa piece is tuned to A, B, E, A (versus the more common A, D, E, A). The strumming therefore creates an unusual, 'strung up' sound. The music begins with the prelude to the famous battle that would determine the fate of two states, Chu and Han. With drums, horns and sounds of horses galloping, a magnificent scene at camp unfolds. Then the heroic image of the King of Chu is created through a succession of passages. He is cast as a great fighter and strategist. But with the turn of events, he suffers his downfall. The mood changes from heroic magnificence to tragic lament. After hearing the 'Song of the Chu' and bidding farewell to his favourite concubine, he cannot but have to meet his own end. Although he breaks through the enemy front – a point that marks the turn – he only manages to escape to Wujiang River, where, caught between the dead end and the pursuing enemies, he takes his own life, and the music comes to a tragic close.

 

The emphasis of the music is on the fall of a heroic figure rather than on the battle scene. It captures his psychological changes, his resignation to fate, and his loneliness. Although written with the intention of being a 'variation', the work is structurally complete with an opening, exposition, transition and close. It is a beautifully written piece for the pipa and demonstrates the advanced music culture of ancient China.        

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Reeds
Composed by Wang I-Yu

The piece begins with a long note played by the traditional sheng. The sheng player stands by the organ, and these two instruments of shared origin together narrate the past, present, and future of 'the reeds'. The long note of the sheng then develops into chords, while the arpeggio of the organ also develops into vertical harmony, playing the fundamental pitches G-B-C to support the sheng. Later, the organ plays in a bright and brilliant color, evoking the rhythmic cluster patterns of the sheng. The sheng player returns to the center front of the stage, replacing the traditional sheng with a 36-reed soprano sheng, playing together with the soprano, alto, and bass shengs in the orchestra and with the organ situated at the bottom of the stage. This forms a three-dimensional soundscape of reed instruments. The absolute music compositional style will excite the pulse of the audience. The challenging performing techniques and the ecstatic rhythms turn each note into morphine, causing heartbeats to race. Through the instrumental combinations in this piece, the ancient instrument family of the reeds transcends the division between Eastern and Western cultures. Particularly stunning is the use of the Jew's harp, a distant relative ancestor. The Jew's harpist improvises by switching among one-, two-, and four-reed Jew's harps. A simple Seediq melody lightly wanders around the voices of the 36-reed soprano sheng, the organ, and the Chinese orchestra. Such simplicity and purity, perhaps, is the final destination of 'the reeds', having crossed between East and West, past and present.

 

* The 37-reed sheng is used in this concert.

 

The 2020 Grand Chinese New Year Concert

3/2/2020

Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Sheng: Chen Yi-wei

Organ: Jonathan Scott

Tombak and Orchestra Song of Abandon (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)
Composed by Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
Arranged by JunYi Chow
Transcribed by Lea Fink

Song of Abandon is about freeing oneself from constraints. It tells an encouraging story of overcoming the past to find something new – maybe a personal change, a collective decision, a new feeling, or an unheard musical idea. It is about the very moment, when you know that you must take the next step forward, but you realize what you will lose. Some changes come with unavoidable pain. Song of Abandon is also about sharing this pain, exchanging thoughts on its causes and why it is necessary to leave something beloved behind. What makes the pain bitter-sweet is the belief, that the departure is good for something: for a new discovery, for a more peaceful life – for whatever someone cares about.

 

One of the many possible stories of abandon is that of Mohammad Reza Mortazavi's tombak. The tombak used to be a traditional instrument bound to strict conventions. Mohammad's way of playing the tombak is not about serving a tradition, but about imagining, inventing and playing music that is far beyond what the instrument used to sound like. Song of Abandon is sung by the skin of the tombak drum. Its vibrations make the air oscillate, and with it, one instrument after another begins to resonate. Every sound of the large orchestra, from atmospheric heights to massive basses, origins from the small movement of the drum's skin.

 

Not only the arrangement functions as the amplification to solo's material, it builds the mood of the work and attempts to create a dialogue in this cross-cultural soundscape.

 

- Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and JunYi Chow

 

Majestic Drums

25/10/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Tombak: Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

Lion Dance Drum(s) and Orchestra Spirited Lion Dance Drums Commissioned by the HKCO / World premiere
Composed by Mui Kwong-chiu

Spirited Lion Dance Drums is a piece commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra which brings together orchestral music, lion dance drum music and the actual lion dance. It is a tone poem illustrating Hong Kong as a modern metropolis. The music is in three parts: the first describes a vibrant Hong Kong with the Victoria Harbour; the second features lion dance drum music in tandem with a live dance of a lion duo; the third repeats the theme of Hong Kong in an economic boom and the Victoria Harbour; and the coda is a rousing scene that brings together the Orchestra, the live drum music, and the lions performing the dance. With images of prosperity, the container port, the bright neon lights of the Victoria Harbour, the piece comes to a climactic close.

 

- Mui Kwong-chiu

 

* This new work is commissioned by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in 2018 with sponsorship from CASH Music Fund.

 

The Drums of Hong Kong

26/10/2018

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Lion Dance Drum(s): International Seven Star Mantis Style Lee Kam Wing Martial Art Association

For Four Instruments and Chinese Orchestra Next Station Moon (Commissioned by the HKCO / Premiere)
Composed by Ng King-pan

The first movement: The Shaded Moon

The second movement: Mondschein Represents My Heart

The third movement: Grand Opening

 

Facts: The Chang'e-4 moon lander, the second phase of China's Lunar Exploration Programme, made a successful moon landing in January 2019. It marked the first successful mission in human history to land on the far side of the moon.

 

Fantasy: This was followed by probing of the moon surface by the Yutu-2 lunar rover. Results yielded revealed that there is a vast space beneath the surface. So, in the subsequent third and fourth phases of the moon programme, more thermal probes were conducted in different parts of the moon. Some physical movements under the surface layer were detected, which further confirmed that there is civilization in the subterraneous part the moon. The aerospace agency has decided that China's first manned lunar landing project will use music to make the first encounter of the Fifth Kind with non-earthlings. It is supposed to be a gesture of goodwill and a demonstration of the arts and culture of the earthlings. As for the human candidates for the first moon landing, there will be members of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. The present work is created in anticipation of this adventure, as we share a culture hot pot of music East and West on the moon theme.

 

Next Station Moon is a work that brings together humankind's heartfelt yearning and wishful imaginings of the moon in the music of China and the West. In exploring the 'moon mission à la Chinese style', the composer has cooked up a chop-suey dish of moon-related elements of music cultures of the world for interesting listening.

 

The original version of this piece was written for Chinese orchestra and piano quartet. The world premiere was performed by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and the Janoska Ensemble at the concert, 'When Janoska Meets HKCO', held on 12 July, 2019 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, with Chew Hee Chiat conducting. The arrangement you hear tonight is for Chinese orchestra and four instruments (erhu, gaohu, yangqin, sheng).

 

- Ng King-pan

 

A Cosmopolitan Symphony - Opening Concert of the 43rd Orchestral Season

27/9/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Eco-Erhu: Zhang Chongxue

Eco-Gaohu: Wong Sum Ho

Soprano Sheng: Chen Yi-wei

Yangqin: Lee Meng-hsueh

Cello Concerto Zhuang Zhou's Dream
Composed by Zhao Jiping

Let music roam free in a dream – in the style of the famous rhetoric adage on life by Zhuang Zhou, the great philosopher of China who lived in the 4th Century BCE. "Is it but Zhuang Zhou's dream of a butterfly? Or a butterfly's dream of Zhuang Zhou?" This concerto for cello and Chinese orchestra seeks to give an inspiring musical interpretation of the Dao, or the 'Way', of Zhuang.

 

-Zhao Jiping

 

*The music was commissioned and premiered in November 2008 of the concert 'Yo-Yo Ma & HKCO' by the HKCO, under the baton of Yan Huichang.

 

Klara Festival

2/9/2009

Henry Le Boeuf Hall, Bozar, the Centre for Fine Arts

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Cello: Marie Hallynck

Percussion Concerto The Sun (The First Movement of The Age of the Dragon)
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

The dragon is a totem of the Chinese race, and the first year of the 21st century happens to be the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese horoscope. This happens, it is said, not once in a thousand years but once in three thousand years, and I am one of the lucky ones to witness this. A new millennium brings new hopes and expectations. As a composer, I think I would rather translate my hopes and expectations into music. In The Age of the Dragon, I have put two soloists in the lead: one Chinese percussion and the other, western, in an attempt to demonstrate the soul and the spirit of the Chinese people.

 

The piece is in four movements. The first is The Sun - a symbol of light and heat and of faith and power. The second is The Moon - the watery moonlight is a reflection of the deepest feelings. The third is The Stars - twinkling and fascinating, they symbolize wit and hope and have brought wisdom to numerous sages. The fourth is The Earth - our mother and the home of all the people in the world. It is believed the Earth will get smaller and smaller in the new millennium while people's hearts will grow closer and closer to one another. I would count this as my only wish on the eve of the new age.

 

- Kuan Nai-chung

 

* Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at 'The Age of The Dragon' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall on 17th December 1999, guest conducted by Kwan Nai-chung.

 

Majestic Drums

25/10/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percusion: Luk Kin Bun, Huang Hsuan-ning

Zhonghu Concerto The Indomitable Su Wu
Composed by Peng Xiuwen

The original composition was an erhu concerto. The story is based on a historical figure of the Han Dynasty, Su Wu (140BCE – 60BCE), who was famous for his patriotism and loyalty despite his sufferings. He was an envoy on a goodwill mission to the Huns in the North of China. But he was held hostage by the Hun prince who tried to force him to surrender by intimidation and by promise of wealth. But Su Wu was a man of integrity and, rather than yielding, he chastised the Hun prince for going back on the peace pact with Han. As a result, he was banished to Beihai to herd sheep. He spent nineteen lonely years there, but still refused to give up his status as a Han envoy. It was only when the emperor of Han sent another envoy to take him back to Han land that he was able to return, whereupon he was bestowed with honour and glory for his integrity.

 

The music portrays the patriotic figure of Su Wu from several angles. The theme melody is taken from two sources – a folk song Su Wu Herding Sheep and the guqin melody, Su Wu Misses the Emperor. It threads through the music as it develops, and forms a relatively free structure. The work is in three sections: 1. A Solitary Loyal Figure in a Snow Storm; 2. Thinking of Han and Missing Home; and 3. Returning Home with Glory.

 

The music opens with a sombre first movement, A Solitary Loyal Figure in a Snow Storm in an epic narrative. The protagonist's anxiety is introduced before the erhu solo rises in a cadenza passage from the cacophony of chaos. It portrays Su Wu's indomitable spirit, unwavering faith and his anger and sadness while standing in a land of wind and snow.

 

In the second movement, Thinking of Han and Missing Home, the tutti in the prelude describes the snow-covered, desolate and vast land with no single soul in sight. Then the solo zhonghu comes in with the heavy, plodding theme melody, expressing Su Wu's sad longing for his family and the unfulfilled wish of returning home after living beyond the Great Wall for so long. A more fluid middle section depicts Su Wu looking homeward in the far off distance, recalling the happy moments with his family. The mood returns to the former sad and lonely state, while the music ends on the seventh chord of the soprano sheng to suggest a ray of hope in the long, dark night.

 

The final movement, Returning Home with Glory, opens with a grand fanfare, as Su Wu returns to Han land amidst the welcoming sounds of horns and gongs. Below the apparent joy, there are lamentations of the bygones. The ensuing cadenza of the zhonghu solo recalls the nineteen years of hardships Su Wu has suffered in Beihai. In the coda the theme of Su Wu Herding Sheep appears on the xindi, then expands into a magnificent eulogy before it comes to a rousing, jubilant close.

 

- Wang Guotong

 

In Tribute - The Legacy of Peng Xiuwen

9-10/12/2016

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Eco-Zhonghu: Zhang Chongxue

Chamber

Huqin Sextet New Flight of the Bumblebee
Composed by Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Arranged by Alfred Wong

The Flight of the Bumblebee is an orchestral interlude from the opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, by Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It appears in Act III, Tableau 1, and according to the description on the original score, the scene is like this: "A bee appears on the sea far off, then flies to the Swan-Bird and dances round it."

 

The idea of New Flight of the Bumblebee came from the erhu virtuoso Zhang Chongxue, who suggested that I should combine passages from Horse Race - New Version by Chen Yaoxing and Chen Jun with Rimsky-Korsakov's Bumblebee to pack more action to the scene. With the extremely fast semi quavers and the bravura chromatic techniques, the huqin sextet would really dazzle the audience in this concert.

 

- Alfred Wong

 

* The arrangement was commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered on 26 January 2013 at the Bravura Strings–Huqin Quartet Concert at the Lecture Hall of the Sheung Wan Civic Centre, with Yan Huichang as the Artistic Advisor, gaohu by Zhou Yi, erhu by Zhang Chongxue, zhonghu by Han Jingna, gehu by He Wei.

 

Eco-Gaohu: Zhou Yi

Eco-Erhu: Zhang Chongxue, Wong Lok Ting

Eco-Zhonghu: Han Jingna

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Eco-Bass Gehu: Qi Hongwei

Eco-Huqin Ensemble Lovers' Sorrow (also known as 'The Cowherd and The Weaver')
Cantonese Music

This is an ancient piece that tells the legend of the two celestial lovers, the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, who are forced to stay on either banks of the Milky Way by the Queen Mother of Heaven. Their feelings of anger and pain are depicted in the music.


*The piece was performed in 2005, led by the first generation of Eco-Gaohu introduced by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.


Eco-Gaohu: Wong Lok-ting

Yehu: Wu Siu-hin

Qinqin: Lo Wai Leung

Xiao: Chan Hung-yin

Eco-Huqin Erhu Solo Birdsong in the Silent Mountain
Composed by Liu Tianhua

The music depicts the lively scene of birds singing in the mountains. On the bases of a traditional melody and traditional performing techniques, the composer has developed a lyrical piece with structural integrity. In playing, cyclic fingering of the left hand on the same note and an extensive use of fast-paced harmonics are employed. The result is a delightfully refreshing appeal.


Eco-Erhu: Zhang Chongxue

Eco-Huqin Sextet Reflection of the Moon on the Water
Composed by Hua Yanjun
Arranged by Lee Huanzhi

Adapted from the outstanding erhu piece composed by Hua Yanjun (A Bing). At the beginning, A Bing named the song The Tune of the Heart, then Yang Yinliu, a famous musicologist, suggested that the piece be named after the ancient springs at the bottom of Huiquan Mountain in Wuxi, and the work has since been known as Reflections of the Moon on the Waters.

 

The work has a beautiful melody that is full of depth and expresses A Bing's grief as well as his hope for a better life.

 

Eco-Gaohu: Wong Lok Ting  

Eco-Erhu: Zhang Chongxue, Xu Hui  

Eco-Zhonghu: Han Jingna  

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo  

Eco-Bass Gehu: Qi Hongwei

Trans-media

Summer Kaleidoscope

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) presents this new composition, "Summer Kaleidoscope", to commemorate the Beginning of Summer. It is the finale of the HKCO's "24 Solar Terms" music video series. 

 

The ancient Chinese knowledge system of Solar Terms categorises different periods of the year according to the sun's motion. The Beginning of Summer embodies a marked rise in temperature, the onset of rainy and stormy season, and nature entering into vibrant growth. This theme of diversity and change is expressed in "Summer Kaleidoscope" through variations in tempos and in the textural tonal contrasts of the different musical instruments. These features are further amplified by the MV's use of macro filming on the musical instruments. Another characteristic of the composition is the adaptation of well-known phrases from traditional music of southern China and ancient origins.

 

As the finale of the 24 Solar Terms MV series, this MV pays homage to Chinese tradition by incorporating visual elements from other MVs in the series as well as the HKCO's Chinese Festivals and 24 Solar Terms MV series. Please visit www.hkconetconcerthall.com to revisit these MVs.

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer & Music Producer: Ng King Pan

Director: Cheung Kit Bong

Eco-Erhu: Xu Hui

Eco-Gaohu: Wong Sum Ho

Eco-Zhonghu: Li Xiaoding

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Eco-Bass Gehu: Li Wei

Yangqin: Lee Meng-hsueh

Zheng: Fu Zifei

Soprano Souna: Ma Wai Him

Alto Suona: Kwan Lok Tin

Percussion: Luk King Bun, Liao Yi-ping, Leung Ching Kit

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' – Luk Kin Bun (Fire)

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' turns the performance of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) into a journey for foodies. A virtuoso of the HKCO (Ma Wai Him, Chen I-ling, Xu Hui, Zhao Taisheng and Luk Kin Bun) appears as chef in each episode and lines up the performances as a four-course meal. The Appetiser is a lighthearted lead-in to Chinese music, the Starter a small ensemble performance, the Main Course an orchestral performance, and the Dessert completes the experience with behind-the-scene clips.

 

The menu in each episode represents one of the five elements in the ancient Chinese philosophy of wuxing: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. They can be enjoyed individually or as a whole for a taste of the various instruments and characteristics of Chinese music.

 

Fire is the wuxing theme of this last episode in the series. Our chef is Luk Kin Bun, HKCO Principal Percussion, and he has prepared a meal that sizzles with rhythm and excitement. Luk and fellow HKCO percussionists begins with a delightful Starter playing Drama (excerpt), a contemporary trio for the cymbal. For Appetiser, Luk plays all the instruments in this composition of his own, When the Four Forms Become One. The Main Course recaps a concert performance by the HKCO on The Sun (The first movement of The Age of the Dragon) which expresses the theme of faith and perseverance. Watch how Luk and Huang Hsuan-ning manoeuvred among a variety of Chinese and Western percussion instruments to deliver a high energy performance. Lastly, the musical feast winds down with Dessert for an interesting look at the making of the MV.

Aura of Spring
Composed by Ng King-pan

Aura of Spring

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) celebrates the Beginning of Spring with this new composition, Aura of Spring. It is the third release in the HKCO's "24 Solar Terms" music video series.

 

The ancient Chinese knowledge system of Solar Terms categorises different periods of the year according to the sun's motion. The Beginning of Spring, which takes place in early February, is the first solar term. It is a time when the last remnants of winter subside and nature wakes up to the warm glow of the sun. This transformative awakening comes to life in this rendition of Aura of Spring by the HKCO ensemble. The theme of light and rebirth is also conveyed through the art installation and the artistic treatment in the MV.

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer: Ng King-pan

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Installation art: Chris Cheung & XCEED team

Xiaoruan: Ge Yang

Zhongruan: Wu Man-lin

Daruan: Hsu Tzu-wei

Bangdi, Xiao: Lin Yu-hsien

Soprano Sheng: Chan Yi-wei

Bass Sheng: Wei Shen-fu

Percussion: Liao Yi-ping, Chan Lut Ting

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' - Ma Wai Him (Metal)

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' turns the performance of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) into a journey for foodies. A virtuoso of the HKCO (Ma Wai Him, Chen I-ling, Xu Hui, Zhao Taisheng and Luk Kin Bun) appears as chef in each episode and lines up the performances as a four-course meal. The Appetiser is a lighthearted lead-in to Chinese music, the Starter a small ensemble performance, the Main Course an orchestral performance, and the Dessert completes the experience with behind-the-scene clips.


The menu in each episode represents one of the five elements in the ancient Chinese philosophy of wuxing: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. They can be enjoyed individually or as a whole for a taste of the various instruments and characteristics of Chinese music.


This episode features the musical instrument suona which represents the element of Metal in wuxing. Ma Wai Him, the HKCO's Principal Suona , is the chef presenting the musical four-course meal here.

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' – Chen I-ling (Water)

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' turns the performance of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) into a journey for foodies. A virtuoso of the HKCO (Ma Wai Him, Chen I-ling, Xu Hui, Zhao Taisheng and Luk Kin Bun) appears as chef in each episode and lines up the performances as a four-course meal. The Appetiser is a lighthearted lead-in to Chinese music, the Starter a small ensemble performance, the Main Course an orchestral performance, and the Dessert completes the experience with behind-the-scene clips.

 

The menu in each episode represents one of the five elements in the ancient Chinese philosophy of wuxing: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. They can be enjoyed individually or as a whole for a taste of the various instruments and characteristics of Chinese music.

 

Appearing in the Appetiser is the family of the ruan instruments. Discover the characteristics of the trio plays A Dancer's Outpourings (excerpt). The ruan's versatility is further shown in the Starter as the pace and mood change in Slowly Rowing on Jasmine Waves (excerpt). The Main Course presents Chen playing another plucked-string instrument, the liuqin, with orchestral accompaniment for The Sky with the Stars (excerpt). Not to be missed is Dessert for a behind-the-scene look at the making of the MV.

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' – Zhao Taisheng (Earth)

A Musical Feast by HKCO's 'Five' turns the performance of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) into a journey for foodies. A virtuoso of the HKCO (Ma Wai Him, Chen I-ling, Xu Hui, Zhao Taisheng and Luk Kin Bun) appears as chef in each episode and lines up the performances as a four-course meal. The Appetiser is a lighthearted lead-in to Chinese music, the Starter a small ensemble performance, the Main Course an orchestral performance, and the Dessert completes the experience with behind-the-scene clips.

 

The menu in each episode represents one of the five elements in the ancient Chinese philosophy of wuxing: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. They can be enjoyed individually or as a whole for a taste of the various instruments and characteristics of Chinese music.

 

Episode 4 features HKCO Principal Sanxian Zhao Taisheng as chef. Zhao has prepared four attractive courses along the Wuxing concept of Earth.

 

First, let's meet Zhao the all-round musician in the Appetiser. Watch him breeze through demanding pieces using six very different instruments. To echo with Earth, the next two courses are about human's affinity with the land. The Starter is a Henan Bantouqu, a form of music developed in the Henan region, with Zhao playing the sanxian. The Main Course is Song of the Black Earth from a 2013 performance by the HKCO at the Tyumen Philharmony in Russia. Listen to the love for the land as expressed by the orchestra as well as in Zhao's powerful sanxian solo and vocal performance. Finally, enjoy the making of the MV as Dessert for a delightful end to the musical feast.

Autumn Silhouette
Composed by Ng King-pan

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra welcomes in the arrival of autumn with a new music video, "Autumn Silhouette", using Art Tech. This uptempo and creative music video is the first in HKCO's new series on "24 Solar Terms" (二十四節氣). A UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage, 24 Solar Terms is a knowledge system developed in ancient China which categorises different times of a year according to the sun's motion. The Beginning of Autumn (立秋) is the 13th solar term which marks the transition from the Yang (the sun / active / masculine) into the Yin (the moon / passive / feminine). It's a time for nourishment and preparation for harvest. Listen to how HKCO celebrates the arrival of autumn with a contemporary interpretation in this MV. See how the concept of the Yin and Yang comes to life using art tech. Experience the dynamics of the interaction of robotics and traditional Chinese music instruments.


Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer: Ng King-pan

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Robotic installation, Media Art: Gaybird Leung

Art Director, Set Designer: Point Studio

Producer: Lui Yuen Ping

Cinematographer: Rick Lau

Gaffer: Malo Ma Pui Chuen

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Sanxian: Zhao Taisheng

Xiaoruan: Ge Yang

Zhongruan: Fung Yin Lam, Wu Man-lin

Daruan: Lau Yuek-lam

Eco-Bass Gehu: Chan Ka Man, Tam Shu Kiu

Winter Sanctuary
Composed by Ng King-pan

The Beginning of Winter — one of the 24 Solar Terms in the Chinese lunar calendar — marks a time in which lives cocoon to conserve. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) celebrates this theme in its latest MV, "Winter Sanctuary".

 

According to ancient Chinese calendar which categorises different times of the year into "24 Solar Terms" (二十四節氣), the Beginning of Winter is a time when man and nature go into dormancy. It is an inward state centred on the act of conservation. Beneath this quietude are latent life forces readying for spring to arrive.

 

"Winter Sanctuary" is a contemporary work which includes an adaptation of the old composition, "Three Variations on a Plum Blossom Melody", and the Mongolian folk tune, "Thinking of Sweetheart in the Midnight" The opening Eco-gehu solo by Tung Hiu Lo, Principal Eco-Gehu of the HKCO, is especially reminiscent of nomadic music in the Mongolian desert.

 

The centrepiece is an art installation tailor-made for this MV to express the collection and conservation of foods for winter. The art tech acts in sync with the Chinese music performance, with its ring of robotic arms feeding soybeans to the wok-like containers. Furthermore, hanging above are artistically carved calligraphic displays resembling ancient musical scores for the MV's melody as played by the guqin.

 

Let's watch to discover the symbolism in the MV and experience the Beginning of Winter as portrayed by the HKCO.

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer: Ng King-pan

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Installation art: Chris Cheung & XCEED team

Eco-Zhonghu: Li Xiaoding, Wan Yun-an, Han Jingna

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo, An Yue, Wu Fan, Cheung Tin Chun

Eco-Bass Gehu: Qi Hongwei, Chan Ka Man, Li Wei, Tam Shu Kiu

Yangqin: Lee Meng-hsueh

Dragon Boat
Composed by Ng King-pan

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra launched a series of music videos on the theme of Chinese festivals in the near future. With the Dragon Boat Festival coming up, the community cannot hold dragon boat races this year as we need to observe social distancing advice and avoid large crowd gatherings. As an alternative, HKCO offers you the MV titled Dragon Boat! Dragon boat racing is a time-honoured custom in China, and is believed to have the efficacy of warding off epidemics and evils. We have commissioned a new work titled Dragon Boat by local composer, Ng King-pan, with performance by the Orchestra's musicians. A music video of the same title has also been created by a local production crew led by young director Cheung Kit Bong. We hope the near-virtual sights and sounds of dragon boat races would bring you a happy, safe and healthy holiday!

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer: Ng King-pan

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Moon Chaser
Composed by Ng King-pan

Following the release of the first of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's series of music videos on the theme of Chinese festivals, Dragon Boat, which went viral online, here is the second in the series, Moon Chaser. An amazing visual display of the versatility of Chinese plucked-string instruments through the macro lens.

 

From all of us at HKCO, Happy Moon Festival!

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Composer: Ng King-pan

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Yangqin: Lee Meng-hsueh

Xiaoruan: Ge Yang

Pipa: Zhang Ying, Shiu Pui Yee

Zhongruan: Fung Yin Lam, Wu Man-lin

Daruan: Lau Yuek-lam

Qinqin: Wong Yui Kiu

Sanxian: Zhao Taisheng

Zheng: Li Tingting

Percussion: Luk Kin Bun

Winter Days
Composed by Ng King-pan

HKCO's Chinese music MV, Yuqing, Bianqing and Eco-huqin Sextet "Winter Days", marks a rare effort to deploy macro lens and high-definition recording to present the eco-huqin (an instrumental series created by the HKCO) and the yuqing (a jade stone chime used in ancient rituals in China) in a modern work. The remarkable quality of the audiovisual production – in terms of recording, sound mixing and camera work – makes this a gem in Chinese music. More than a thousand audio tracks were used for multi-angle recording and shooting, thus recreating with amazing precision the texture unique to the eco-huqin and its comparatively more brilliant and robust timbres right before the eyes of the viewers.

 

Artistic Director: Yan Huichang

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

Composer and producer: Ng King-pan

Sound Mixing: Frankie Hung

Echo-Erhu: Zhang Chongxue, Xu Hui

Echo-Gaohu: Wong Sum Ho

Echo-Zhonghu: Mao Qinghua

Echo-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Echo-Bass Gehu: Qi Hongwei, Chan Ka Man (Recording only)

Yuqing, Bianqing: Huang Hsuan-ning

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Winter Days is a string of Chinese cultural DNAs found in well-known works and quotes about "Winter solstice", "chilliness" and "home". It opens with the solitude and rising chill that comes with the north wind, followed by the warmth of sharing glutinous rice dumplings with the family later by a fire. The stark contrast of the chilliness and the warmth makes up a musical stream of consciousness.

 

"I was at a stage inn in Handan on Winter Solstice Day.

Hugging my knees by the candlelight,

I only had my shadow to keep me company.

I could only imagine how it would be

To have my family sitting around me,

Chatting into the deep of the night,

And talked about the lone soul far away."

- Bai Juyi (772 - 846), Thinking of Home on Winter Solstice Night at Handan

 

This Chinese music MV marks a rare effort to deploy macro lens and high-definition recording to present the eco-huqin (an instrumental series created by the HKCO) and the yuqing (a jade stone chime used in ancient rituals in China) in a modern work. The remarkable quality of the audiovisual production – in terms of recording, sound mixing and camera work – makes this a gem in Chinese music. More than a thousand audio tracks were used for multi-angle recording and shooting, thus recreating with amazing precision the texture unique to the eco-huqin and its comparatively more brilliant and robust timbres right before the eyes of the viewers. The macro lens was used in the making of the MV to zoom in on the secrets of the production of the perfect audio: the friction between the strings, the bow hairs and the rosin, as well as the vibration of the PVC membrane.

 

Hidden in the video is also the gongche notation, a format widely used since the Tang Dynasty up to recent times in Chinese traditional theatre. Displayed on the screen is the main melody of the work notated using the gongche format as in contemporary Cantonese Opera, a meaningful suggestion of the inherent relationship between the modern and the traditional.

 

Eco-Huqins: http://www.hkco.org/en/Instrument-Rd/Eco-Huqins.html

 

*Yuqing (known as teqing in ancient times) : A percussion instrument made of jade used in celestial and ancestral worship by the emperors in ancient China. It is the sound of stone among the bayin (Eight Sounds). Like the bianqing and the bianzhong, yuqing is an instrument for rituals widely used in court music before the Qin Dynasty.

Dragon Phoenix
Composed by Ng King-pan

"Air of auspiciousness arises from lanterns of dragon and phoenix. Thousand shades of purple and red announce the arrival of Spring to the world".

 

80 Chinese New Year lanterns that cast light on 80 musicians and two dancing lions from high above create a stunningly dynamic scene of a soaring dragon with the lineup of bianzhong, Jiangzhou big drum, and 32 types of wind, plucked string, bowed string and percussion instruments. The score of Dragon Phoenix is inspired by the phonemics of the Cantonese dialect in the new year greetings recited, and hidden in it are many famous songs on the Chinese New Year theme. The result is an audio-visual montage of auspicious new year wishes, just like the red couplets one finds everywhere during this festive season.

 

Director: Cheung Kit-bong

 

Composer and Producer: Ng King-pan

 

Note 1: The bianzhong is a set of bronze chimes used as a ritual vessel, rarely captured by the camera. It first grew popular in the Zhou Period, reached its zenith during the Spring and Autumn/Warring States period, and lasted until the Qin and Han periods (1046 BCE – 220 CE). A percussion instrument used only for the worship of heaven by the emperor in ancient China, the bianzhong as seen in the video is a set of 26 pieces of 52 tones, with a weight of about 1.6 tons. It is a replica of the Biangzhong of Marquis Yi of Zeng unearthed in 1978 in Hubei, made to the order of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

 

Note 2: The jiangu (big drum) in the video is from Jiangzhou of Shanxi. 1.3 metres in diameter and 1 metre in depth, its extra sturdy shell and drumhead make a firm and deep bass, made to the order of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

 

Note 3: All huqins used in the video are eco-huqins researched and developed by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

Concert

Meeting across Nine Millennia of Time

Turkey makes an interesting start of our Silk Road journey in music as it has been an interesting hub in world history, geography, culture and trade down the ages. The ancient sounds should make exciting listening. For this concert, we have the guyue, or 'bone pipe' of nine millennia ago, performed by Liu Zhengguo of China, the exotic instruments of the Turkish ensemble of Kudsi Erguner which would transport us to the legendary land of Persia, and the timeless sheng of Wu Wei.

 

 

Guyue, a pipe instrument dating nine millennia and excavated in the Neolithic site in Jiahu, can now be heard:

Seven-hole Guyue (Excavated in 1986, first lot of artefacts of the site) Demonstration

Two-hole Guyue (Excavated in 2001, second lot of artefacts of the site) Demonstration

 

Six-hole Guyue (Excavated in 1986, first lot of artefacts of the site)     Primitive Safari

Qian Zhaoxi 

Guyue: Liu Zhengguo

Xiaodi: Choo Boon Chong

 

Wind Music - Double-tube Bamboo Pipe      Three Variations on a Plum Blossom Melody 

Arr. by Hui Cheung-wai (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / Premiere)

Double-tube Bamboo Pipe: Liu Zhengguo

Sheng: Wei Shen-fu

 

Turkish Classical and Sufi music

I. Prelude in the Makam Mahur

II. Prelude in the Makam Huseynî

III. Prelude in the Makam Acem Aşiran

Performed by: Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

 

Traditional Turkish Instrument and Orchestra           Central Plains Connections - From the Steppes to the Seraglio

Kudsi Erguner and Chew Hee Chiat (Commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)

Part A: Genghis Khan, A Voyage to the East and to the West

Part B: Caravan of Hope

Part C: Silver Tree Fountain

Part D: Caravan of Fascination

Part E: Memories for the Future

 

Fantasy for Sheng and Chinese Orchestra     Silk Road - The Travels of Marco Polo 

Enjott Schneider (Commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)

I. Towards Smarkand / Reflection I: Marco's Dream

II. Adventure in the Pamir-Mountains / Reflection II

III. Crossing the Taklamakan / Reflection III

IV. Kublai Khan – Mongolian Conqueror / Reflection IV

V. Beautiful Hangzhou / Reflection V

VI. Farewell & Finale

Sheng: Wu Wei

 

Guyue, Traditional Turkish Instrument and Orchestra           Chance Encounter       

Chan Ming-chi (Commissioned by the HKCO / World premiere)

Section I: Echoes from Time Immemorial

Section II: The Encounter of Blue-and-White Porcelain with Blue Eyes

Section III: My Heart is Spinning

Section IV: Happy Volleyball

Guyue: Liu Zhengguo

Dizi: Sun Yongzhi

Traditional Turkish Instrument: The Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

 

 

Meeting across Nine Millennia of Time

22/2/2019 (Fri)

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

Guyue and Double-tube Bamboo Pipe: Liu Zhengguo

Sheng: Wu Wei

Performed by: The Kudsi Erguner Ensemble

Ney and Direction: Kudsi Erguner

Kemençe: Neva Özgen 

Kanun: Hakan Güngör 

Tanbur: Murat Aydemir 

Oud: Giannis Koutis 

Tanbur with bow: Michalis Cholevas 

Percussion: Fahrettin Yarkin 

 

An RTHK Production

Empowering Hong Kong through Chinese Music - The HKCO Net Festival With New Tunes, We Connect

The HKCO Net Festival was launched in 2020 to drive musicmakers in a fight against Covid-19 and to connect the community in the Cloud. Activities cover three areas: With New Tunes, We Connect; With Drums, We Hearten; and Through Musicking, We Are One. We received rave response from local composers of Chinese music, conductors, teachers, drum ensembles etc. For the segment With New Tunes, We Connect, which is an invitation to young composers to send in their original compositions using the battle against Covid-19 as the theme, we have received many outstanding works. Selected works were live streamed via 5G to give Hong Kong a total uplift!

 

Theme with battle against Covid-19 by Hong Kong Composers

The Rite of Washing   Wu Hou-lam  (World Premiere)

 

Finding the Light     Leung Hong-yu  

                           

Swing and Swirl in the Sahā World    Alvin Leung  (World Premiere)

 

For Qudi, Erhu and Zhongruan     In Full Bloom   Lam Chun-hei, Matthew  (World Premiere)

                     

For plucked String Ensemble   Petals in the Drizzle   Ho Man-hin  (World Premiere)      

 

Deep   Sham Yiu-chung, Ken  (World Premiere)    

 

Here Comes the Dawn   Lam Chun-hei, Matthew  (World Premiere)      

 

Eulogy   Ho Man-hin  (World Premiere)    

 

HongKongers Addoil!     Cheng Ching-nam, Hippocrates  (World Premiere)    

 

Hand-in-hand   Wong Ching-yin      

 

Empowering Hong Kong through Chinese Music - The HKCO Net Festival

5G 4K Live Broadcast Concert

With New Tunes, We Connect

18/12/2021      

HKCO Recital Hall

Conductor: Yan Huichang

 

House programme: https://bit.ly/3xXQW4D

 

The Ten Bhūmis

Avatamsaka Sutra is a major Mahayana Buddhist text revered for its extensive revelation of the teachings of the Buddha.

 

The discourse took place following a solemn and monumental event: the enlightenment of the Buddha. There under the Bodhi Tree (the Tree of Awakening), the Buddha began teaching the many bodhisattvas (buddhas-to-be) who had humbly gathered at the scene. The ambience was made all the more majestic as the Buddha was surrounded by numerous colourful flowers. They were transformed from the many wholesome deeds the Buddha performed when he was still a bodhisattva. This beautiful scene is the origin for Flower Ornament Scripture or Flower Garland Sutra or other poetic titles that some English versions of the sutra have adopted.

 

Among the teachings was the Ten Bhūmis (also known as stages, grounds or levels) which bodhisattvas progress through in order to arrive at enlightenment to become buddhas. An entire chapter in the sutra describes the qualities to be attained or discarded in each stage, making the Ten Bhūmis an important reference for practitioners of Mahayana Buddhism. 

 

The themes of the Ten Bhūmis in turn are: 'Joy', 'Freedom from Defilement', 'Further Enlightenmen', 'Brilliant Wisdom', 'Mastery of Utmost Difficulties', 'Manifesting Prajna-wisdom', 'Attaining Calm', 'Finest Discriminatory Wisdom' and 'Dharma Cloud'.

 

These spiritual progressions are the theme of the special performance by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Sections from Shaolin, a work by Emmy Award composer Nathan Wang, have been selected and arranged by various composers to portray each Bhūmi. The original Western-style music has been adapted for Chinese musical instruments by leveraging the gripping power of percussion and expressive qualities of strings and other instruments to produce a riveting, tranquil and solemn experience.

 

1. Pramuditā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Joy)

2. Vimalā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Freedom from Defilement)

3.Prabhākarī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Further Enlightenment)

4. Arciṣmatī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Brilliant Wisdom)

5. Sudurjayā-Bhūmi  (The Bhūmi of Mastery of Utmost Difficulties)

6. Abhimukhī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Manifesting Prajna-wisdom)

7. Dūraṃgamā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Proceeding Afar)

8. Acalā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Attaining Calm)

9. Sādhumatī-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of Finest Discriminatory Wisdom)

10. Dharmameghā-Bhūmi (The Bhūmi of the Dharma Cloud)

 

5G 4K Live Streamed Concert  

Universe in a Flower

TSM x HKCO x 3HK13/11/2021

Tsz Shan Monastery

Conductor: Yan Huichang

2020 Hong Kong Drum Festival - Majestic Drums

The annual gala event for drummers is here again, at the Hong Kong Drum Festival!  

 

A rousing, heartening experience awaits! Come watch the drumming performances of multiple winner of previous Hong Kong Synergy 24 Drum Competition – Refiner Drums, the taiko drum team GEKKO from Hong Kong, and renowned percussionists Chau Chin-tung and Huang Hsuan-ning!

 

The Refiner Drums (Chapter One) Leung Ching-kit

 

The Yellow River Boatmen A Collective Work by the Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, with notation by Zhang Lie

Percussion: Refiner Drums

 

Kyotendochi Kenji Furutate  Arr. by Hubert Leung

 

Shin-Yatai Traditional Music Arr. by Hubert Leung

 

Zuii Hubert Leung

Taiko: GEKKO

 

Resonation Compiled and Arranged by Refiner Drums and GEKKO (World Premiere)

Percussion: Refiner Drums

Taiko: GEKKO

 

Yunluo Solo As the Molten Steel Runs Xu Jingxin, Li Zuoming and Huang Qiquan Arr.by Chin Kwok Wai

Yunluo: Huang Hsuan-ning

 

Percussion and Orchestra Mountainscapes Alfred Wong (Commissioned by the HKCO /World Premiere)

The first movement: Thousands of Rocks and Myriads of Valleys

The second movement: Eternal Spring

Percussion: Chau Chin-tung

 

Percussion and Orchestra Let the Thunder of Drums Roll VII.1020 Chew Hee Chiat

Audience perform with the artists and the HKCO

 

 

2020 Hong Kong Drum Festival

Majestic Drums

31/10/2020

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percussion: Chau Chin-tung

Percussion: Refiner Drums

Taiko: GEKKO

Yunluo: Huang Hsuan-ning

 

House programme:  https://bit.ly/3vWC2fS

 

Music from the Heart - A Tribute to Our Composer Forerunners

Richard Tsang – conductor, composer and educationist – has dedicated himself to the development of contemporary music in Hong Kong for more than 30 years. In this concert, he conducted the HKCO Ensemble to showcase the unique and diverse musical landscape formed by top composers like Chou Wen-chung, Doming Lam, José Maceda and himself.

 

Sizhu Eternal Pine – for six traditional Chinese instruments   Chou Wen-chung

 

Ling Kai – for Chinese ensemble   Richard Tsang

 

Tien Wen – for nine players (Commissioned by the HKCO/ World Premiere)   Richard Tsang

 

Calm – for Dongxiao, Celesta and Huqin Quartet   Doming Lam

 

Narcissus – for Chinese Ensemble   Doming Lam

 

Nan Guan – for Chinese Ensemble   José Maceda

 

 

5G 4K Broadcast Live Concert

Music from the Heart - A Tribute to Our Composer Forerunners

27/11/2021

HKCO Recital Hall

Conductor: Richard Tsang

 

House programme: https://bit.ly/3nX6wKj

The Eight Immortals' Adventures
Composed by Alfred Wong

An out-and-out 'multi-arts' production, the à la mode way of combining arts of various genres featuring music played by the Orchestra, modern physical theatre, a storyteller straight out of the Chinese theatre tradition, an array of puppet shows, unique sand painting, plus musicians who double as actors who not only act but also execute physical movements, wield swords (of a most peculiar kind!), sing, and turn a somersault.

 

18-19/12/2010

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Production: Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Composer: Alfred Wong

Director / Playwright: Roy Szeto  

Actress: Fung Wai-hang

Production Design / Puppet Design: Esther Kwok

Lighting & Multi-media Design: Tang Wai-pui, Billy

Costume Design: Cheng Man-wing

Movement Instructor – Traditional Chinese Opera: Hong Hai

Puppeteer & Sand Art / Puppet Sculptor: Hoi Chiu

Puppeteer / Puppet Maker: Ben Kwong  

Puppeteer: So Ching-fung

Winds: Guo Yazhi  

Xiao: Tam Po-shek  

Dizi: Lin Yu-hsien

Erhu: Xu Hui

The Eight Immortals' Adventures Prequel
Composed by Alfred Wong

'The Eight Immortals crossing the Sea' is a folklore that has fascinated the Chinese for hundreds of years. What kind of challenge to one's imagination would it be to create a 'prequel' for it, then? In the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra's production, The Eight Immortals' Adventures Prequel, young casts have been recruited through audition to play the famous eight. Would the life of celestials be as happy and carefree as the youngsters think? And how many trials do they need to undergo, in terms of money, family, moral conscience etc., before they achieve eternal life and supernatural powers? Embedded in this contemporary interpretation of an age-old tale is the message to love the earth so that humankind can live in harmony with Nature.

 

28-29/7/2012

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Production: Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Composer: Alfred Wong

Director / Playwright: Chow Chiu-lun, Mike

Actress: Mandy Yiu

Theme Song Lyricist: Sham Wai-chung, Chris

Lighting Design: Lau Ming-hang

Set and Costume Design: Mo Ka-man, Moe

Multi-media Conceptualization: Tang Wai-pui, Billy

Beggar / Guan: Lo Wai Leung

God of Death / Erhu: Xu Hui

Woman / Sheng: Chen Yi-wei

Tiger / Daruan: Lau Yuek-lam  

Tiger / Dizi: Lin Yu-hsien

Gold Ingot / Sanxian: Zhao Taisheng

Woman / Suona: Law Hang Leung  

Woman / Percussion: Luk Kin Bun   

Young Actors / Actresses: Ng Lok-sen, Rosemary / Yuen Wing-yan / Chan Yu-kiu / Cheung Sin-tung / Tsang Ho-ching, Tiffany / Yau Hei-nam, Simon / Tsoi Wai-yin, Willis / Tang Gah-chueh, Leo

Hong Kong Week 2021@Guangzhou - Spring River and Ambush

An impassioned journey through time under the baton of Yan Huichang, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for Life, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra presents classic compositions that light up the stage in a melodic unfolding and a musical feast. Song of the General opens the performance with lively scenes that embody the vibrancy of traditional Chinese opera. Moonlight on the Spring River evokes glorious moments and poetic scenery that unlock the audience's senses, leading them into a realm of sprightly images in The Insect World, the modern classic by Doming Lam, performed with recitation by the three Lung siblings, grandchildren of Lam. Ambush from All Sides brings the concert to an intensely evocative close. The programme of beautiful tunes and familiar folk music spans Eastern and Western musical styles from different eras, as it spotlights the HKCO as a pioneer in both innovating and passing on the artistic legacy of Chinese music.

 

Song of the General Ancient Melody Arr. by Peng Xiuwen

 

Moonlight on the Spring River Ancient Melody Arr. by Peng Xiuwen

 

The Insect World Doming Lam

1. The Busy Bees

2. The Dragonflies

3. The Silk Worms

4. The Butterflies

5. The Insect World

Recitation by: Ambrose Lung, Berenice Lung, Callum Lung

 

Gehu, Pipa, Sheng, Zhongruan and Orchestra

Ambush from All Sides Ancient Melody Arr. by Li Cangsang and China Magpie Arr. and Orch. for Chinese Orchestra by Chew Hee Chiat

Eco-Gehu: Tung Hiu Lo

Pipa: Zhang Ying

Sheng: Lu Yi

Zhongruan: Fung Yin Lam

Music from the Heart (2020)

The 'Music from the Heart' project was an initiative launched by Yan Huichang, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for Life of the HKCO, in 1999. Through public invitations for new compositions, their performance and discussion, the project has helped to discover and nurture talent in music composition in Hong Kong. Now into its 21st edition, it has become a highly anticipated platform for showcasing new works and an opportunity for exchange. This year's 'Music from the Heart' concert enters another level of mass outreach with live streaming via 5G broadcasting. New original compositions by six local composers – Matthew Lam, Wong Ching-yin, Tam Yat-sing, Austin Leung, Wu Kwan-yu and Leung Hong-yu, selected through the open call, will demonstrate the energetic, innovative charm of youth.

 

3/7/2020 (Fri)

Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall

 

Chamber Ensemble Mirage Matthew Lam

Tranquility Wong Ching-yin

Epiphyllum Tam Yat-sing

Renovated Tradition - Mysterious Rain, Dance Austin Leung

I Dreamt I Saw a Sunken Sea Wu Kwan-yu

Night Thoughts Leung Hong-yu

Hong Kong Drum Festival

Percussion Concerto The Sun (The First Movement of The Age of the Dragon)
Composed by Kuan Nai-chung

The dragon is a totem of the Chinese race, and the first year of the 21st century happens to be the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese horoscope. This happens, it is said, not once in a thousand years but once in three thousand years, and I am one of the lucky ones to witness this. A new millennium brings new hopes and expectations. As a composer, I think I would rather translate my hopes and expectations into music. In The Age of the Dragon, I have put two soloists in the lead: one Chinese percussion and the other, western, in an attempt to demonstrate the soul and the spirit of the Chinese people.

 

The piece is in four movements. The first is The Sun - a symbol of light and heat and of faith and power. The second is The Moon - the watery moonlight is a reflection of the deepest feelings. The third is The Stars - twinkling and fascinating, they symbolize wit and hope and have brought wisdom to numerous sages. The fourth is The Earth - our mother and the home of all the people in the world. It is believed the Earth will get smaller and smaller in the new millennium while people's hearts will grow closer and closer to one another. I would count this as my only wish on the eve of the new age.

 

- Kuan Nai-chung

 

* Commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and premiered at 'The Age of The Dragon' held at the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong City Hall on 17th December 1999, guest conducted by Kwan Nai-chung.

 

Majestic Drums

25/10/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percusion: Luk Kin Bun, Huang Hsuan-ning

Chinese Percussion and Orchestra Prince Qin Takes His Roll Call
Composed by Jing Jianshu
A Collective Work by the Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe

This work was the result of collective efforts of all musicians of the Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, with the scores prepared by Wang Baoliang, Jing Jianshu and Huai Hai.

 

It begins with a dramatic clamour - the shrill calls of bugles, the tight roll of drums, and quickening gongs and cymbals - that takes us back to the drilling ground of 1,300 years ago. The whistling west wind adds to the tension. Prince Qin, Li Shimin, is inspecting his army and getting them ready for battle. Each of the processes is presented with the varying drumbeats: formation, roll call, drill, and setting off. The awe-inspiring scene of an army led by Li Shimin is dramatized scene after scene in the musical narrative.

 

This work won the Grand Prize at the All China Folk Music and Dance Competition in 1992 and the 2nd “Star-studded Awards” - Gold Prize.

- Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe  

 

* 'Prince Qin' refers to Li Shimin, who later became Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (r. 626-649).

 

 

The Jiangzhou Connection – Majestic Drums XXII

27/10/2017

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percussion: Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, Refiner Drums

 

Percussion Quartet Fang Yuan Fang Yuan
Composed by John Chen Kwok-ping

Fang Yuan Fang Yuan was commissioned by the Hong Kong Percussion Group and funded by the Urban Council. It was written for a percussion concert in City Hall as part of the 1997 Hand-over celebration. The four Chinese words in the title can be translated as 'Primal Fragrance (or Fragrant Original) of Squares and Circles', its symbolism and implications are manifold. For example, the instruments are primarily round and rectangular in shape. On a more philosophical level, the interpretation may be that perhaps there is beautiful fragrance within the essence of different ideologies of working together. In this work, visual and aural symbolism and sonic analogies are numerous. The most obvious is that there is a time in the piece when melody excerpts of the Chinese and British anthems appear together as a duet under the same harmonic scheme. Also, elements of Hong Kong's cosmopolitan culture can be reflected by the use of Mahjong, Western and Eastern instruments and timbres, as well as various types of musical styles including Jazz, Chinese and African.  

 

- John Chen Kwok-ping

 

The Drums of Hong Kong

26/10/2018

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Percussion: Lung Heung-wing, Choy Lap-tak, Margie Tong, Choi Suk-fan

 

Pangut
Arranged by Choi Byoung-sam
Korean Traditional Music

Pangut, or "setting up a play arena", is a type of farmers' music as well as a form of mass entertainment in which the performers share the fun with the audience. The Pangut performers spin a long ribbon on their hat called sangmo while playing instruments with both hands and making dance movements with their legs and body. Various patterns can be formed as in military formations.  

 

The person who plays the kkwaenggwari is called sangsoi, and has the role of a conductor for the performance and dance. He spins a decoration on top of the hat called bupo, which is made of bird feathers. Players of the jing, janggu, and buk spin a decoration called chori, which is made of paper. The sogo (hand drum) player also has a chori on top of the hat, but sometimes its length can be up to 18 meters. He sometimes does cartwheels during the performance.

 

 

Majestic Drums XIX

24/10/2014

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Percussion: National Gugak Centre of Korea

 

Tombak and Orchestra Song of Abandon (Arrangement commissioned by the HKCO / World Premiere)
Composed by Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
Arranged by JunYi Chow
Transcribed by Lea Fink

Song of Abandon is about freeing oneself from constraints. It tells an encouraging story of overcoming the past to find something new – maybe a personal change, a collective decision, a new feeling, or an unheard musical idea. It is about the very moment, when you know that you must take the next step forward, but you realize what you will lose. Some changes come with unavoidable pain. Song of Abandon is also about sharing this pain, exchanging thoughts on its causes and why it is necessary to leave something beloved behind. What makes the pain bitter-sweet is the belief, that the departure is good for something: for a new discovery, for a more peaceful life – for whatever someone cares about.

 

One of the many possible stories of abandon is that of Mohammad Reza Mortazavi's tombak. The tombak used to be a traditional instrument bound to strict conventions. Mohammad's way of playing the tombak is not about serving a tradition, but about imagining, inventing and playing music that is far beyond what the instrument used to sound like. Song of Abandon is sung by the skin of the tombak drum. Its vibrations make the air oscillate, and with it, one instrument after another begins to resonate. Every sound of the large orchestra, from atmospheric heights to massive basses, origins from the small movement of the drum's skin.

 

Not only the arrangement functions as the amplification to solo's material, it builds the mood of the work and attempts to create a dialogue in this cross-cultural soundscape.

 

- Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and JunYi Chow

 

Majestic Drums

25/10/2019

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Tombak: Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

Lion Dance Drum(s) and Orchestra Spirited Lion Dance Drums Commissioned by the HKCO / World premiere
Composed by Mui Kwong-chiu

Spirited Lion Dance Drums is a piece commissioned by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra which brings together orchestral music, lion dance drum music and the actual lion dance. It is a tone poem illustrating Hong Kong as a modern metropolis. The music is in three parts: the first describes a vibrant Hong Kong with the Victoria Harbour; the second features lion dance drum music in tandem with a live dance of a lion duo; the third repeats the theme of Hong Kong in an economic boom and the Victoria Harbour; and the coda is a rousing scene that brings together the Orchestra, the live drum music, and the lions performing the dance. With images of prosperity, the container port, the bright neon lights of the Victoria Harbour, the piece comes to a climactic close.

 

- Mui Kwong-chiu

 

* This new work is commissioned by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in 2018 with sponsorship from CASH Music Fund.

 

The Drums of Hong Kong

26/10/2018

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor: Chew Hee Chiat

Lion Dance Drum(s): International Seven Star Mantis Style Lee Kam Wing Martial Art Association

Everything Starts with Breaking the Guinness Record with Citizens in 2003…

'The thunder-like sound of joyfulness starts, where the gongs and drums join in together. The percussionists are delighted while the audience are pleased.' The SARS pandemic hit Hong Kong in 2003. HKCO held the Hong Kong Drum Festival for the first year to boost the morale and energize Hong Kong citizens. In March, the Home Affairs Bureau and HKCO bring to the public the precious video clips of the Drum Festival over the years, wishing to cheer the public up with dynamic drum sound to fight against the pandemic!

The Story of the Largest Chinese Drum in the World with 3.45m Diameter

At the early summer time in 2003, the Concert Master of Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Troupe, Wang Qin-an (deceased), was invited to join the Hong Kong Drum Festival by leading tens of drum artisans from Jiangzhou to make hundreds of Chinese Dagu for the Festival. One of the drums' diameter was 3.4 meters long, which was the largest Chinese Dagu in the world. The drums demonstrated the drum artisans' wisdom and expertise and we could learn the charm of the drum heritage therein.

To Complete the Steps of Drumhead-installation, Drumhead-stepping, Stringing, Drumhead-stretching and Drumhead-stapling for the Largest Dagu in the World

The steps of making the world's largest Chinese Dagu is very complicated. This episode is showing us the video clips of drumhead-installation, drumhead-stepping, stringing, drumhead-stretching and drumhead-stapling.

How to Turn the More Than 1000kg Dagu over for Stretching the Drumhead on the Other Side

One side of drumhead has been well stretched, but then how can we turn the more than 1000kg drum over and stretch the drumhead on the other side? Besides showing the process of turning over the drum by the drum artisans, the video is also showing the structure of the Chinese Dagu, the craft and the expertise therein.

Yim Hok Man Shows You the Final Manufacturing Procedures of the Largest Chinese Drum in the World

The more than 1000kg Dagu has come to the final manufacturing procedure. Yim Hok Man, who was the Principal Percussion of HKCO, came to the workshop to supervise the process in person. He is also going to share with us the drum manufacturing procedures in this precious video. It was really splendid when all the drums arrived at Victoria Park for installation.

Installing More than 2000 Chinese Drums Overnight at Victoria Park

On 12 July 2003, the more than 2000 drums of large, medium and small sizes and Biangu which were ordered by HKCO arrived at Vicoria Park from Jiangzhou and Suzhou. Led by HKCO Artistic Director, Yan Huichang, and Executive Director, Celina Chin, our colleagues from the percussion section and administration section worked in joint effort to place the drums in the park overnight to prepare for the opening ceremony on the next day. On 13 July 2003, HKCO and more than 3000 Hong Kong citizens broke the Guinness world record successfully. It was a huge boost to the morale of the city after suffering from SARS pandemic.

Behind the Scene

2020 Concert Tour in Europe - Behind the Scenes

In Spring 2020, HKCO has traveled to seven cities in five European countries  (Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Germany, Austria) to perform 'The Grand Chinese New Year Concert' at seven prestigious concert halls.

 

24/1 KKL Luzern, Luzern, Switzerland

26/1 Theater Bonn, Bonn, Germany

27/1 BOZAR MUSIC, Brüssel, Belgium

30/1 Gut Varrel, Stuhr, Germany

1/2 Tirol Festispiele, Erl, Austria

3/2 Müpa Budapest, Budapest, Hungary

5/2 Kulturpalast, Konzertsaal, Dresden, Germany

20th Anniversary of the Corporatization of HKCO

The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra was founded in 1977 by the Urban Council. It came under the management of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra Limited on 1 April 2001 when the latter took over from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Corporatization of the HKCO, the Founding Chairman and Senior Council Advisor, Dr Carlye W L Tsui and the Council Chairman, Mr Ricky Li, shared the origin and goals of the Corporatization.

Water and Life - An International Concert in Support of 2008 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

17/6/2008

Banks of Yellow River, Guide County, Qinghai

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