Exploring Chinese Orchestral Repertoire Series #47

Shih-Hui CHEN: Fantasia on the Theme of Guanglingsan

Guzheng: Hsin Fang HSU/ Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Tien-Ku Percussion Group / Chih-Sheng CHEN / National Recital Hall, Taipei, Taiwan 2017.8.23.

The musical materials in this piece derive loosely from Guanglingsan, a melody popular in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.) and among the most well known pieces from the classical repertoire. Although originally performed on guqin, it also became an important work for zheng later on. Despite the tragic content of its narrative – Guanglingsan tells a story of revenge, that of a sword craftsman’s son during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) – the two distinct emotions and styles presented in the melody made a deep impression on me. The meditative character in the melody’s opening and ending provide a strong contrast to the fast, energetic music flanked within. Together, they suggest a rich, full range of musical expression and vitality.

The structure of the Fantasia, therefore, echoes this original melody with the slow-paced opening (subtly introduced in a fragmented way), while the faster middle section invokes a warrior-like spirit. The rich and elegant Guanglingsan melody is most apparent in the final section where the longer and more lyrical melody is presented in a contrapuntal manner. Furthermore, it is worth mention that, unlike my previous works that utilize only strict notation, Fantasia employs some graphic notation/improvisations for the soloist and the orchestra to allow freer and more effective expression on the traditional Chinese instruments.

In addition to this version for the Chinese orchestra, there is also a chamber ensemble version (see https://musinno.com/exploring-solo-small-ensemble-series-11/).

~ Shih-Hui Chen