Thursday, February 26, 2015

华艺節 :: 韶琴邦音乐会

I'm not a fan of the erhu (二胡). Its sound gives me goosebumps, regardless of which genre it's innovatively used in. I was keen to attend this concert because it involved this new version of an erhu in the shaoqin (韶琴). Since the friends didn't mind checking it out, we went to listen to Shaoqin Bang (韶琴邦), part of Esplanade's Huayi Festival.

In this concert, George Gao (高韶青) led Shaoqin Bang (韶琴邦), comprising musicians Wu Xudong (吴旭东), Zhu Yunqi (祝云琦), Ye Chunhong (叶春红) and Guo Mengyu (郭梦雨) on the low, mid and high parts of the shaoqin. This performance also included vocalist Jenny Zhang (张海京)George Gao (高韶青) introduced his invention of shaoqin (韶琴), and explained how it worked in comparison to the erhu, which raised my goosebumps even more because while it could go lower than the range of the erhu, it could also go one octave higher. The shaoqin's easier tuning pegs, timbre and tone makes it more versatile than the erhu.

I was wishing super hard that they wouldn't play any concertos from 'The Butterfly Lovers'梁山伯与祝英台》 of which I like neither its story, music or current connotation in which a Singapore Minister recently referred to it as a very strange analogy when explaining how the tender process screwed up for a site not meant for a commercial columbarium but was intended for a Chinese temple. Three weeks later, he followed up with another analogy that seemed to imply that losers or wrong-doers should commit suicide, which is really rude, insensitive and obtuse. "In Japan, the chairman and CEO would call a press conference, take a deep bow and, in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri." 

Anyway, the concerto wasn't played. But a refrain of 'The Butterfly Lovers' was played to exhibit how versatile the shaoqin is in the high and low parts of the concerto. I cringed. George Gao is totally at ease on stage and he's as good a composer as he is a talented musician. He also showed off the instrument's competence and his mastery of it by playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, which would not have been possible on a traditional erhu.

George Gao had played with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra in November 2012. Imho, contemporary pieces don't do justice to the shaoqin or erhu. There isn't enough depth for these pieces to showcase the range and soul of the instruments. While Michael Jackson's 'Bad' might lend a cool factor when played by the group, it frankly sounded terrible. An original George Gao composition titled 'Tiger Rock', derived from a Beijing opera (京劇《智取威虎山》之打虎上山) showed off the versatility of the electric shaoqin that was plugged in and kinda sounded like a guitar when piped through the iPhone app (probably an iRig or AmpliTube) and a modulator. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the concert was, given that it was a tad flat in the sense that only one instrument was used.


L Lee said...

Higher than the er hu is wow... Had friends who played it in sec sch mostly cos their parents wanted them to join Chinese orchestra...

imp said...

The concert was a total eye-opener for me!