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Traditional with a twist

In addition to popularizing the erhu, Jiang Jianhua has found ways to give the classical instrument a contemporary sound, Chen Nan reports.

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-09 06:11

Jiang Jianhua, 63, is a celebrated erhu (a two-stringed bowed instrument) virtuoso, who will be in concert in Beijing on Friday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

What do you expect to hear and see when you attend a concert given by an erhu virtuoso?

"I want those with a general idea of the erhu to put aside their impressions, and I hope those who have never seen an erhu concert will get to know the instrument with a fresh eye," says Jiang Jianhua, an erhu player.

In the world of traditional Chinese music, Jiang is a luminary, celebrated for her mastery of the traditional two-stringed bowed instrument, which is revered for its emotional sound and rich cultural heritage.

The erhu virtuoso will be in concert with pipa (a short-necked, four-stringed lute) player Yang Baoyuan, jazz pianist Huang Jianyi and cellist Mo Mo, on Friday at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

It will not be Jiang's first time playing chamber music. In 2021, she performed selections from operas, symphonies and chamber music with a string quartet at the NCPA.

"It's rare for a chamber music concert to feature an erhu, since it is usually played solo or in a big ensemble. I want to offer the audience a fresh take on the erhu and allow them to enjoy the traditional instrument as they never have before," says 63-year-old Jiang, who is a retired professor of the Central Conservatory of Music.

During the upcoming concert, she has adapted pieces including Blooming Flowers and Full Moon by composer and conductor Huang Yijun (1915-95), and Carmen Fantasie from French composer Bizet's opera, Carmen. She has also adapted a piece Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote for The Last Emperor, a Bernardo Bertolucci movie that won nine Academy Awards in 1988, including for its soundtrack.

For Jiang, the choice carries a deeper meaning.

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