Contemporary music feast in store for fans

Contemporary music feast in store for fans
The Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at the Forbidden City Concert Hall on Wednesday night as part of the Beijing Music Festival. [Provided to China Daily]

Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra will perform works by some of the most creative minds in contemporary Chinese music at the Forbidden City Concert Hall on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Beijing Music Festival.

Commissioned by Hangzhou Philharmonic, the composers' works combine veneration for traditional forms with techniques gleaned from Western music.

Seven Episodes of West Lake, an expansive symphony composed by Ye Xiaogang, "sings the beauty of Hangzhou", in Ye's words, through lyrics borrowed from poems written by great poets living in ancient Hangzhou, including Bai Juyi from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) and Su Shi of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

"I have fond feelings for water towns in the south - and there are so many resources to utilize - lyrical material from folk songs and music around the Hangjiahu Plains in Zhejiang province," says Ye. "I felt that audiences would easily sense the exquisite and fine features in the harmony between vocal and orchestra."

The piece has been performed many times since 2011, and Ye says that he expects a more mature interpretation of "Hangzhou music" this time in Beijing.

If Seven Episodes of West Lake is regarded as an earthly introduction to the beautiful scenery of Hangzhou, Chinese Dream for Piano and Orchestra written by Zhang Zhao takes the audience to the splendor of ancient times.

Inspired by the Book of Changes, the composer depicts a modern Chinese dream using both ancient and modern instruments, a fusion between East and West, according to the composer.

Taking advantage of the solemn and glorious sound of bianzhong (chime bells), a symbol of kingly authority and prestige, the lushly scored music produces dreamlike, sacred and graceful effects.

While obvious Chinese elements can be found in the two pieces, Man Jiang Hong, Guo Wenjing's latest work, presents an ancient Chinese figure in a rather innovative and Western way.

Man Jiang Hong is a poem attributed to the legendary Song Dynasty general Yue Fei, a patriot and national hero.

"Frankly speaking, I felt it was not an easy feat when I got the topic," says Guo in a phone interview with China Daily. "Everything was right there in the poem - Yue Fei's punctilious character and of his prowess on the battlefield."

Troubled by the limitations of the existing content, he says that the melody that ran through his brain was composed of bad notes, until he found a short lyrical poem titled Man Jiang Hong published in a music magazine in the early 1920s.

"I don't know who wrote it, but it really made me realize that writing about a hero that we know all too well doesn't have to be limited to a traditional label we tagged to him," said Guo.

The three movements of the symphony piece, titled Death of the Hero, Funeral and Spiritual Rebirth, respectively, tells a brave man's posthumous story, leaving enough space for the orchestra to elaborate and for the audiences to imagine.

"A Chinese instrument is not a necessity to present an 'abstract ancient hero' in this piece," says Guo, "but the ancient Western music form, passacaglia, works well while presenting the Chinese theme."

"The three original pieces have distinctive features and should charm and invigorate the audience," says Yu Long, artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival.

"As the best music festival in China, we have the responsibility to promote Chinese composers and music. Thanks to Hangzhou Philharmonic for commissioning such great works," he says.