Episodes:

Shanghai Quartet

Hear the world premiere of Vivian Fung’s String Quartet no. 2, commissioned by the Shanghai Quartet, along with Mozart’s String Quartet no. 15 and Beethoven’s monumental Quartet opp. 130/133, performed by one of the world’s leading chamber music ensembles. The Shanghai Quartet has appeared annually at the Freer Gallery of Art since 1996. One of their recent performances inspired the Washington Post to applaud their “self-effacing beauty of sound . . . gorgeous tone with an unwavering unanimity of expressive intent . . . a musical conversation of stunning authenticity and presence.” This concert was recorded before a live audience as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on April 23, 2009.

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A New World of Sound: PRISM Saxophone Quartet and Music From China

In this first-of-its-kind collaboration, a saxophone quartet joins with traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu (fiddle), yangqin (hammered dulcimer), and pipa (lute) to perform new works written for them by Grammy Award-winners Zhou Long and Chen Yi, among others.. The New York Times praised the PRISM Quartet for its “sensitivity, technical assurance, and mellow sweet sound,” while the Kansas City Star raved that “Music From China is music from heaven.” This performance was recorded in concert in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium on March 1, 2009.

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Premiere Works: Music From China Ensemble

Enjoy prize-winning compositions in Music From China’s International Composers Competition for new music with Chinese and Western instruments, as well as works by Grammy Award-winners Zhou Long and Chen Yi. The Music from China Ensemble features exceptional artists on erhu (fiddle), zheng (zither), sheng (mouth organ), and other Chinese instruments, complemented by cello, flute, and percussion. The Kansas City Star called the Music From China ensemble “music from heaven” and “exceptionally rewarding.”

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Enjoying the Flowers: Chinese Music & Drama

Enjoy this rarely heard tradition of Chinese music and drama called nanguan. Dating from the early seventeenth-century Ming dynasty, it has been revived by Chinese musicians and actors in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. It is performed here by vocalists and instrumentalists on Chinese fiddle, lute, gongs, flute, and percussion. The centerpiece of the performance is an excerpt from Enjoying the Flowers, a famous scene in the nanguan repertoire. In this episode, a lady’s maid conjures up imagery of bees, butterflies, birds, and flowers to convince her patron to express her frustrated love through romantic poetry. This performance was presented in cooperation with the Taipei Cultural Center and in conjunction with the Sackler exhibition East of Eden: Gardens in Asian Art. Recorded live in the Haupt Garden at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on April 22, 2007.

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Bell Yung plays a Chinese qin that was made in 1640 during the Ming dynasty. The Freer Gallery collection includes two qin from the same period: one inscribed with the name “Spring Breeze,” and an even older instrument from the Tang or Northern Song dynasties (7th-12th centuries), which was evocatively called "Dragon's Moan." (Photos courtesy of Bell Yung)

Ancient Music for the Chinese Zither

Imagine a Buddhist monk deep in the scenic mountains of China, contemplating the towering pines, babbling brooks, and shape-shifting clouds as he plays a qin. Virtuoso Bell Yung preserves the musical tradition of this ancient Chinese zither, one of the few types of music in the world that is played primarily for the enjoyment of the performer. Bell Yung, emeritus professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh, recorded this concert at the Freer Gallery in 2005.

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Tan Dun’s Map Project and China’s Endangered Music

Internationally acclaimed composer/conductor Tan Dun, whose many accomplishments include an Academy Award for his score to the hit film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” leads this discussion/demonstration exploring the vanishing musical cultures of ethnic minorities in western Hunan. His discusses his most recent creation, The Map, which combines a stone-drumming ensemble, cello soloist, the Shanghai Symphony, and video of traditional dance. The talk follows the American premiere of the work at the Kennedy Center on October 17, 2005. A co-presentation with the Kennedy Center’s Performance Plus program. Recorded live at the Freer Gallery October 18, 2005. (46:41).

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A leading performer on the Chinese pipa, Wu Man has appeared at major venues around the world, in solo recitals, and with leading ensembles, such as the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. She was named 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America, making her the first traditional musician ever to receive the award.

Master of the Chinese Pipa: Wu Man

A Grammy Award nominee and the first traditional artist to be named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America, Wu Man is widely considered the premiere soloist on the pipa, an ancient Chinese lute. Enjoy her virtuosic renditions of classical pieces meant to evoke Chinese sunsets, Buddhist chanting, and an ancient battle. This 1999 concert at the Freer Gallery concludes with a contemporary work written for her by composer Bung-Ching Lam.

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