About this Recording
8.225813 - SONG OF YANG GUAN (THE) - Ancient and Modern Chinese Classics (Takako Nishizaki, Singapore Symphony, Choo Hoey)
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Ancient and Modern Chinese Classics (Arranged for Violin and Orchestra)
The Song of Yang Guan • Happy Evening by the Spring River • Listening to the Pines • River of Sorrow • Riding in the Open Grassland • The Ballad of Yubei • In the Night • The Shepherd Girl • Sorrow in Autumn • Nostalgia • Bright Future


In common with other types of oriental music, Chinese music is based on melodies. This collection of pieces for violin and orchestra contains arrangements of famous erhu music, traditional melodies and Southern silk and bamboo music, The erhu is an old bowed string instrument, of Turco-Mongolian origin. It has developed a rich repertoire, influenced to some extent in the present century by the occidental violin. The technical possibilities of the erhu, however, are limited by the fact that it has only two strings, without a finger-board, the bow being inserted between the strings. The neck is often ornamented at the top, and the hexagonal or sound resonator, held on the knee, has one end covered with snakeskin.

While the erhu lacks the technical range of the violin, its repertoire is accessible to the violinist. The present recording makes use of Western notions of rhythm, harmony, melodic decoration and development, the original translated into new modes of interpretation.

The Song of Yang Guan

The Song of Yang Guan is taken from a well-known work of the Tang Dynasty for the qin, which has been arranged for many different combinations of instruments. The music is a reflection of the mood of a poem by Wang Wei, Farewell to Yuan Er at Anxi:

The morning rain in the town of Wei has cleared the dust,
While the willows outside the guest-room are very green.
Finish now your cup of wine,
Or, when the sun sets, you will never see your friend again.

Happy Evening by the Spring River

Happy Evening by the Spring River was originally written for a Chinese folk orchestra, derived from the pipa piece Flutes and Drums at Dusk, from the region of Jiangnan. The music depicts an evening scene by the river.

Listening to the Pines

Listening to the Pines is taken from a piece for erhu by the famous blind musician Hua Jan Jun, generally known as A Bing. The sound of the wind blowing through the pine-trees is used as a symbol of the loyalty of the Sung Dynasty general Yue Fei to his country.

River of Sorrow

River of Sorrow is a popular piece from the north-eastern region of China, originally composed for double guan, and then arranged for erhu. The principal melody is well known from its use in the ballet The East Is Red.

Riding in the Open Grassland

Riding in the Open Grassland became a popular part of the erhu repertoire in the 1970s. The music offers an evocation of riding in the vast, open plains of the Mongolian grassland.

The Ballad of Yubei

The Ballad of Yubei was written by the distinguished erhu player Liu Wen Jin and in its original form is of considerable length. The composer used folk-style melodies to depict the countryside north of Henan. Liu Wen Jin’s compositions include the popular Grand Capriccio, after the earlier success of his erhu and piano work San Men Gap Fantasy.

In the Night

In the Night makes use of a melody from kun opera, a form that influenced the style of Beijing opera. The material has been adapted by the jinghu players of Beijing opera as an independent instrumental piece. The northern melody is familiar from martial scenes in operas such as Beating the Drum in Condemning Cao and The Parting of the Chu Emperor and His Wife. The jinghu is similar in form to the erhu, and is used specifically in Beijing opera accompaniment.

The Shepherd Girl

The Shepherd Girl is an Inner Mongolian folk-song that enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1950s, its melody limited in range and serious in mood. A boy and a girl sing the original song, the boy asking why the girl, dressed in light clothing, still watches over her sheep, as night approaches. She tells him that she is guarding the sheep against her landlord, who has threatened to slaughter them.

Sorrow in Autumn

Sorrow in Autumn is taken from popular Cantonese opera, the dramatic origin of the material emphasised by the contrast of solo instrument and orchestra, as it develops.


Nostalgia exists as a qin (Chinese zither) piece, dating back to the Han Dynasty. According to legend, the words of this famous work were written by the heroine Cai Wen Ji, who was taken prisoner by foreign invaders. When she was rescued by the Han Emperor, she heard sad music played on the Hu jia, an old instrument that had its origin in Mongolia. The poem is in eighteen sections, each set to music. The present version is based on music for the qin.

Bright Future

Bright Future is the work of the distinguished erhu player Liu Tian Hua, a pioneer in the use of Western violin technique in erhu writing. Composed in 1931, the piece shows clear signs of the influence of the violin. Liu was born in 1895 and died in 1932.

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