Magical Flute of China: Portrait of Dizi Master Tang Jun Qiao – Tang Jun Qiao, Dizi (Chinese Bamboo Flute); Ying Hao Tong, Chinese Cymbalo; Shen Yi Wen, Piano – Channel Classics

by | Sep 26, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Magical Flute of China: Portrait of Dizi Master Tang Jun Qiao – Tang Jun Qiao, Dizi (Chinese Bamboo Flute); Ying Hao Tong, Chinese Cymbalo; Shen Yi Wen, Piano – Channel Classics Multichannel  SACD – CCSSA 80507, 63 mins. *****:

I’ve always been a rather big fan of traditional Asian music, but historically, most recordings I’ve encountered have been pretty ho-hum, almost universally offering incredibly mediocre performances combined with equally poor sonics, and generally making for a less-than-satisfying listening experience. That said, this new disc from Channel Classics, from which I’ve come to expect both superb sound and top-notch performances, was a revelation, and may very well be the best collection of Asian traditional music I’ve ever heard!

There are two types of Chinese bamboo flutes, the Dizi and the Xiao. The Xiao is played vertically, and was early-on exported to Japan where it was renamed the Shakuhachi. Its tonal range is somewhat limited compared to the Dizi, which is side-blown, relatively easy to play, and has become one of the most popular traditional Chinese instruments in Asia. Much of its unique character comes from the use of a special bamboo membrane that is employed during performances; the use of this membrane is an art form unto itself, and easily differentiates between the master performers and the wannabe’s. Those possessing lower-grade skills on the instrument tend to produce a harsh and shrill tone, not at all unlike many recorded performances I’ve encountered over the years. This album is a portrait of Dizi master Tang Jun Qiao, and no smoke has been blown here – her mastery of the Dizi is unmistakable, and listening to this disc has been both enlightening and immensely entertaining.

While many performances of traditional Asian music may seem a chore to get through, this disc is anything but that, and I found that its 63-minute runtime passed all too quickly. The sounds that Tang Jun Qiao coaxes from her instrument are incredibly varied, and often reminiscent of birdsongs or people’s voices. And they’re sometimes startling in their intensity – but never grating to the ear. The recording is superb, as usual from Channel Classics, and is apparently part of a series of discs Channel is recording in China. This one has definitely peaked my interest – I’m ready to hear the rest! Very highly recommended!

– Tom Gibbs

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