Exploring Chinese Orchestral Repertoire Series #38

Shueh-shuan Liu: Second Erhu Concerto

Erhu: Yiwen Lu / Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Tien-Ku Percussion Group / Chih-Sheng Chen / National Concert Hall, Taipei, Taiwan / Video: Jacob Audio and Video Arts, Jacob Chang / Audio: Chao-Hui Wang 2017.8.23

The inspiration of this concerto came from the folksongs of the Tsou ethnic group in the southern part of Taiwan. The main theme is derived from their folk music. The beginning of the erhu solo uses different tones to create the atmosphere of echoes coming from a valley. The first movement develops the motive D-E-E-F and while moving forward, the changing chords form the core of the ever changing tone colours. The second movement contrasts with the first movement, slowing down and becoming a lullaby. The third movement awakens in a state of restlessness. The strange effects of the 5 beat dancing rhythm gradually accelerates and gradually returns to the beginning. It finishes in a warm and vibrant atmosphere.

Although this music was based on ethnic sources, the composer strived to avoid the usual rigid stereotype of national or Chinese folk music. Folk music can be absolute music and likewise, absolute music can also have local and folklore components. This is also the uniqueness of traditional Chinese music and its instruments: the music utopia that composers yearn for. His “Second Erhu Concerto” awarded the Silver Medal (concerto category) in the Council for Cultural Affairs 2003 Traditional Music Composition Competition.

The composer explained his creative philosophy: “I made use of some Southern Tsou folk songs, modifying them to form the core of my movements. The first movement consists of fragmentary impressions with a lively and fast tempo, as if moving through flashes of memories. The second movement is a lullaby, with a theme that repeats in order to achieve a more lasting effect, allowing the listener to remember the melody. The third movement is a continuous 5 beat dance. The melody is not meant to be remembered, but the atmosphere of passion is to be felt. The above three movements are all continuous. The composer Mendelssohn used a similar approach in his Violin Concerto in E minor. I admire and pay tribute to him with this work.”

(Translation: Anthony Ko / Edit: Patty Chan)