This is the fifth SACD in a series of Chinese music discs recorded by Channel Classics, with more to come. The orchestra consists of pipas, Chinese Zither, Cymbalo, Liu Qin, Baritone & Bass Ruans, doublebass, bamboo flute, San Xian and percussion. Other ethnic instruments function as soloists in some of the 13 selections, including the erhu and sheng (mouth organ). Each player in the ensemble is independent and at the same time integrated into the group. Sometimes they are playing the melody line and other times the supporting parts.
Some of the selections are ancient Chinese music, some are arrangements of folk songs, there are orchestrations of solos for the pipa string instrument, and some are original compositions for the ensemble. There are 18 players in all and they are spread around the hall to give an enveloping acoustic for surround sound playback, with the listener sitting in the center of the space.
This is tonal and very enjoyable music; don’t be afraid of being subject to typical Chinese opera music. Only one selection touches on that – a trio for three cymbal sets – but it’s short and actually a fun percussion display.
TrackList: Jolly Tune, Night Banquet, Street-walking Musicians, In the Still of Late Night, Tune from Jim Region, When Spring Visits South China, Journey beyond Zi Kou, Riddle guessing, Camel Bell Ring, Trio for Three Sets of Cymbals, Ambush on all Sides, Moscow Nights, Sabre Dance (Khachaturian)
– John Sunier