About this Recording
8.225842 - DU, Mingxin: Village by the River / DU, Mingxin / XIAO, Yao: Nostalgia (Chinese Music for Flute and Harp) (Volckhausen, M. Wright)
English  Chinese 

Chinese Music for Flute and Harp

 

The combination of plucked stringed instruments and flutes is a very ancient one, both forms of instrument existing in antiquity, if in a less sophisticated form than today. Early Chinese scroll-paintings suggest ensembles of court musicians even in the Tong Dynasty relying to a consideration extent on such a combination of instruments. At the same time the sonorities of flute and harp have had a general appeal, not only in Mozart’s famous concerto for the instruments, written for Paris in 1778, but in later French music, and in the music of Japan, where the combination of shakuhachi and koto has assumed importance.

The use of flute and harp for arrangements of Chinese folk songs is, therefore, one that seems to have some theoretical justification in history, while certainly offering an attractive medium for music of this kind.

Village by the River
Du Mingxin

The composer Du Mingxin, in common with other Chinese composers, has always shown an interest in the folk music of his country, the natural source of any national Chinese school of composition. In Village by the River he makes use of folk melodies from Kiangsu, preserving the original melodies as far as possible in a new setting for flute and harp. The suite is in five sections.

1. Planting Song

Planting Song is based on a folksong from the Kiangdou region of the North-eastern province of Kiangsu. The mood of the song is a characteristically cheerful one, the arrangement allowing the flute a brilliant final variation of the theme.

2. Singing in the Fields

Singing in the Fields has its ultimate origin, it seems, in Suzhou during the Southern Song Dynasty (AD 1127–1279), a period of considerable disturbance preceding the establishment of the alien Yuan Dynasty. The original song concerns the loneliness of people working away from home, but it later became part of the Suzhou lyric tradition.

3. Love Song

The well-known song Moli Hua (Jasmine flower) is from Yangzhou in Kiangsu province, although it is known throughout China. The jasmine flower, symbol of purity, is the subject of an even better-known song that forms the inappropriately imperial theme of Puccini’s Turandot.

4. Bamboo Pole

Bamboo Pole is a song from Rugao in Kiangsu province. The pole of the title is the carrying-pole used to carry produce to market, balanced across the shoulders.

5. Man River Melody

The cheerful Man River Melody is a Kiangsu string piece, a happy conclusion to the suite.

Nostalgia
Du Mingxin and Xiao Yao

In Nostalgia the composers use a series of melodies of clear Chinese origin grouped to suggest feelings of home-sickness and reflection on the past.

1. My Mother

Making use of a Yunnan folksong, the composer suggests thoughts about his mother, and the learning of the song Waves in Big River at his mother’s knee, outlined in a further section.

2. Reunion

The Kiangsu folksong Green Willows provides the thematic material for Reunion, a meeting of old friends under the morning sun, eager to recall their childhood.

3. On the Way Home

On the Way Home offers music expressive of the title of the whole group of pieces, essentially nostalgic, recollecting in tranquillity the emotions of the past.

4. Forest Dance

Forest Dance has a vigorous and energetic opening theme leading to a quieter section. A variant of the first theme introduces a further pastoral episode, after which the first theme reappears, establishing once again the mood of the opening.

5. Rain

The harp introduces Rain in apt style, joined by the flute in a nostalgic melody. The composer remembers the forest, his home and the sound of the bells through the rain. The mood of the piece is contained in the couplet:

Soft rain falls on my robe
My song turns to sad thoughts of home


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