Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SCCM Chinese Orchestra Concert

Last night the Sichuan Conservatory of Music opened it's concert season. The featured group was the SCCM Chinese Orchestra. This is an eclectic group of made up of primarily traditional Chinese instruments mixed with the a few Western instruments to fill out the sound. Students and teachers alike performed together. Before the concert began, the audience was instructed to stand and applaud as the tenured faculty and government officials entered. The only problem was that these guests were were not very punctual. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8pm. It was not until close to 8:45 that the these special guests arrived. Prior to their arrival there were numerous times that people mistook a latecomer for one of these VIPs. Needless to say, we practiced madly applauding many times before they actually arrived.

Finally, the concert began. Before each piece, a woman came out to preface the work and introduce the conductor and featured soloist. There were four different maestros and four faculty soloists throughout the night. There was a particular uproar after the intermission as a female conductor was intruduced. I learned that this is quite rare in China.

I had never heard a group like this before. To help you picture the instrumentation: There was a large section of about 30 Erhu players located normally where violins and cellos are placed in a Western orchestra. In the center, there were 3 Guzheng and 3 Guqin behind them. Behind the Erhu on stage left was a section of Ruan (Da and Zhong varieties. Stage right contained Chinese-style cellos and basses. The first riser held a section of 16 Pipa. On the next riser was the wind section comprised of about ten Dizi of different sizes, 3 shen and 2 Dashen. The next riser held the Chinese oboe, Suona, tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone (my student!). The final riser was reserved for the percussion section: Daigu in the center, a set of timpani, Bangu, Biangu, Bianzhong (cloud gong), suspended cymbals, high hat hat a grand piano.

The sound of the orchestra was unique to say the least. I was surprised how much sound was produced. Even though there was no brass section, this group was quite loud! Even though many of the instruments have a nasal quality (i.e. suona, dizi, erhu) the balance and blend was extraorinary.

Seven works from local composers were featured in the concert. As mentioned earlier, four of these featured soloists. I was most impressed with the Shen player. This instrument has a very unique sound; almost like that of a miniature organ! The Zhong Ruan soloist was also very interesting. This 4-string instrument is similar to the mixture between a guitar and a banjo. The other soloist played dizi, and erhu. I wish I could post videos of the whole concert, but the files are too big!


Chris said...

If I knew what any of those instruments were, I'm sure it would have been a very descriptive relation of the layout of the stage.

However, I'm just gonna pretend it was set up like a funky asian orchestra with lots of drums in the back.

Josh Katz said...