On Saturday, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall welcomed six fabulous traditional Chinese music programs in a three-hour show. The artists in the show were pianist Meng-Chieh Liu, the Borromeo String Quartet and the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra.
Liu, a Taiwanese pianist, became famous at the age of 21. He has performed with orchestras under conductors Christoph Eschenbach, Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert. He has also held several worldwide concerts. He will join several orchestras in 2017 mostly in the United States and China. The Borromeo String Quartet is an American string quartet and has been an ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory for 23 years. Mai Motobuch plays the viola, Yeesun Kim plays the cello and Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong play the violin. The Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra is an influential chamber orchestra featured in Chinese traditional music, and is composed of 11 musicians from the China Conservatory of Music.
“Jackdaws play in the cold water,” an ancient tune from the Han Dynasty, is the first program played on stage. “With the lilies, and the song, and the stars” by David Ludwig used two traditional Chinese instruments, xiao (a flute) and strings. These instruments are mixed with modern piano and vividly capture the fantasies of the people from the prehistoric era. Inspired by Chinese ancient philosophy Tao Te Ching, “See Without Looking” showed peace and simplicity through its pace and rhythm. It is also the world premiere of the song, performed only in Boston. After the intersession, Liu performed a piano solo known as “Chinese Rhapsody No. 2,” created during a dark decade called the Cultural Revolution in China. The last program of the concert was “Ten Changes and Five Variables.” It first showed the United States, but became unique because it not only showed traditional Chinese methods of music-making, but also used western instruments to create endless imaginary.
After the performance, I got to interview one of the erhu musicians, Zhang Zunlian, from the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra. He was very excited to be invited to perform in Boston. When asking about the uniqueness of performing in NEC’s Jordan Hall, he said that “Four Winds” breaks boundaries and steps into a new era that allows Western and Eastern music to intermix perfectly, and musicians, though from different countries, can communicate with this music.