In 2016, the Year of the Monkey will be welcomed with Chinese New Year Concerts in Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Audiences can expect a multifaceted and energetic performance with top soloists, presented by the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater.
The Chinese Traditional Orchestra is affiliated to the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater (CNODDT), the largest and oldest state-level theater in China. With a history of over 50 years, the Chinese Traditional Orchestra has created a large number of renowned and popular Chinese traditional operas and dance dramas. The revolutionary opera "The White-Haired Girl" is probably the best known in the west.
During its performance practice over the past decades, the orchestra became a renowned national-level orchestra at home and abroad. The orchestra has formed a unique artistic style and fostered a large number of performers with high artistic attainments, especially with stars like Guo Lanying und Chen Ailian. In the course of its existence its members took part in national and international instrumental music competitions and won many prizes, including the prize of the 1st Chinese Music Performance Competition of the Ministry of Culture and the silver prize of the 1st Osaka International Chamber Music Competition.Like all traditional Chinese Orchestras the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater is compact and flexible. This feature has allowed the orchestra to establish its own character, by combining traditional, modern and innovative ideas. The orchestra has accumulated many transitional and popular instrumental music works in the history of Chinese music, which have become long-playing and highly-appreciated repertoires. It has also made classical Chinese melodies a major tool to get closer to the people’s life. In 2005 for example, the large-scale Chinese music concert “Past Time”, as the first themed Chinese music concert, combined folk music with electronic music and enriched the expression form of traditional music. The concert was honored by media as the “best-received concert in recent years”. The large-scale multimedia Chinese symphonic concert “The Heroes” on the other hand perfectly combined traditional music with Kong Fu movies and TV plays.Through the examination of traditional Chinese music, the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater has helped the sorting, inheritance, innovation and promotion of intangible cultural heritages.
Hong Xia is a National First Class Conductor in China and permanent conductor of the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater.Hong is a member of the Chinese Musicians Association, a trustee of the China Nationalities Orchestra Society, and the vice-president of the Conducting Major Committee at the China Nationalities Orchestra Society.
After graduating from the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in 1982, she studied conducting under Wu Lingfen and Li Huade at the Department of Conducting at Central Conservatory of Music. She served as permanent conductor of the Heilongjiang Province Song and Dance Theater Symphony Orchestra and Chinese Orchestra, and as conducting professor and master’s student advisor at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music. Currently, she is the permanent guest conductor of the Changchun Film Studio Orchestra, the guest conductor of the Communication University of China Symphony Orchestra, and the guest chief conductor of the Chinese Chime Bells Orchestra from Hubei.Hong has collaborated with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Central Policy Song and Dance Ensemble Symphony Orchestra, China National Opera House Symphony Orchestra, Changchun Film Studio Orchestra, Heilongjiang Province Song and Dance Theater Symphony Orchestra and Chinese Orchestra, Guangdong Chinese Orchestra, Liaoning Chinese Orchestra, China Traditional Orchestra Zhejiang, Shanghai Chinese Orchestra, Chinese Chime Bells Orchestra from Hubei, China Youth Chinese Orchestra, China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra, Kaohsiung Chinese Orchestra, and Macao Chinese Orchestra. She has travelled abroad multiple times to serve as an international judge for the Chinese Music Competition.Hong Xia has conducted multiple large-scale concerts in many Chinese mainland cities as well as in Taiwan and Macao. She collaborated with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Central Policy Song and Dance Ensemble Symphony Orchestra on the “Chinese Music Classics of the 20th Century Concert”. She served as the conductor for the opening of the Fifth Changchun International Film Festival. She conducted and performed in the Shenyang Conservatory of Music’s original large-scale oratorio “Zhe Bu Zhu De Qing Shan” (Green Peak can’t be covered). She conducted several works by the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, including “Sui Yue Ru Ge” (Years as songs), “Si Da Ming Zhu” (Four Masterpieces) and “Chun Jiang Hua Yue Ye” (Moon Night over the River of Spring). Moreover, she conducted the large-scale opera ?Yuan Ye” (Savage Land) by the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, which was performed more than fifty times in Beijing and across China.In 2008, Hong Xia conducted the final concert of the Festival for “Works by International Female Composers”. As part of the first “China Orchestra Festival” organized by the National Center for the Performing Arts, she conducted the concert “The Flowers Are Still So Red – national and international Film Music of Changchun Film Studio”. At the ?Chunhua Qiushi – Spring Flower Autumn Fruits” Festival for Art Schools organized by the National Center for the Performing Arts, she conducted the concert “Hua Cai Jin Qiu” (Colorful Autumn) with the Shenyang Conservatory of Music Youth Chinese Orchestra and Chinese Folk Choir. She conducted the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater during the “National Traditional Music Concert”.In 2007, she conducted the first “Liaoning Northern Chinese Orchestra New Year’s Concert” as well as its next three annual editions. She travelled abroad to Finland and other countries with the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater. She conducted the traditional music concert “The World is Beautiful Because of You” by the Guangdong Chinese Orchestra, the “Hubei Chinese Chime Bells Orchestra Concert”, and the New Year’s Concert at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia.In 2010, she conducted the large-scale traditional symphonic chorus “Zhuang Zu Shi Qing” (Poetic Sentiments of the Zhuang People) by the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater which premiered in Beijing. In 2013, she served as conductor of the Macao Chinese Orchestra concert “Song Chang Jing Dian“(Singing the Classics) and for the “Works by Liu Wenjin Concert” organized by the Central Conservatory of Music during the “Fourth Wind Instruments Art Week”. Hong has conducted many concerts of individual vocalists, performers and composers. She conducted the “Works by Liu Xijin Concert” organized by the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in June 2006, the Hong Kong Newtune Chinese Orchestra in March 2014 and the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra.Hong Xia is known for her mature, rigorous and expressive style that has a lot of character. Passionate but not over-the-top, detailed but not restrained, she is able to
move with ease between Chinese and foreign, classical and modern, traditional and symphonic works.
1. Traditional Chinese Orchestral Music “Spring Festival Overture”
Composer: Li Huanzhi
This orchestral piece is inspired by the tones and rhythms of traditional Chinese folk dance Yangge and song forms from Northern Shaanxi Province. As a musical exploration of the traditional Chinese Spring Festival, the piece depicts a jubilant and touching celebration scene in which people exchange good wishes with their friends and family.
2. Gaohu and Orchestra “Butterfly Lovers Fantasia”
Composer: He Zhanhao, Chen Gang
Adaptation: Liu Wenjin
Gaohu: Lin Gan
On May 27, 1959, the “Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto” composed by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang premiered at the Shanghai Lyceum Theater. As the most famous violin concerto in the history of China, the piece is a combination of symphonic music and elements of traditional Chinese folk opera. The intricate plot tells a tragic story of two protagonists that audiences love and empathize with deeply. The piece also expresses the people’s pursuit of a good life. In the adaptation “Butterfly Lovers Fantasia” by Liu Wenjin, the instrument gaohu, a two-stringed fiddle, takes center stage, infusing the piece with the unique flavors of traditional Chinese music.
3. Lusheng and Orchestra “Train Arriving at Dong Village”
Composer: Yi Yongren, Zhang Dasen
Lusheng: Song Yang
A well-known composition for lusheng, “Train Arriving at Dong Village” is inspired by the musical traditions of the Dong people. The piece makes full use of the incredible ability of the lusheng to imitate different sounds, such as a train whistling joyfully as it passes through valleys and tunnels. The lively and exuberant nature of the piece represents the joy of living of the Dong people.
4. Traditional Chamber Music “Daling Melody”
Composer: Wang Yunfei
Piri: Wu Shude
Guzheng: Lei Dianyun
“Daling” means traditional folk song in Korean. Inspired by Korean folk songs, “Daling Melody” features a combination of folk songs interpreted by traditional folk instruments. The expansive vibrato and dance rhythm of the piece are typical of the music of the Korean minority in China, and the use of Korean instruments, such as janggu, piri, or gayageum, gives the piece its own unique touch. Members of the Chinese Traditional Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater specially travelled to Yanbian Korean Autonomous region to familiarize themselves with the local music. Focusing primarily on learning traditional Korean instruments such as janggu, piri, gayageum, and haegeum, they have been preparing intensively for today’s performance in order to best present the beauty of this culture and offer the audience an authentic folk music experience.
5. Suona Ensemble “Watch the Yangge”
Adaptation: Jing Jianshu
Suona: Shan Weiwei, Liu Xizhan
“Watch the Yangge” is a folk song from Qitai County in Shanxi Province and is one of the most representative works of the yangge, or “rice sprout song.” Applying the versatility of the suona, Jing Jianshu vividly describes how two sisters from a village brave the pouring rain to see a yangge performance. The piece conveys the passion that villagers in Northern China have and their positive outlook on life.
6. Jinghu and Orchestra “Deep in the Night”
Composer: Wu Hua
Jinghu: Bo Miao
Jing Erhu: Yang Wenna
Large Chinese Drum: Wang Jianan
Based on the passage “The Wind Blows Over the Lotus Leaves” in the Kunqu Opera “Sifan Goes Down The Mountain,” this work grew into its current form after being changed and adapted countless times by generations of opera musicians. The title of the piece is derived from the first three characters of the first line of the opera. “The Wind Blows Over the Lotus Leaves” tells the story of a young nun lamenting her lonely and miserable life in a Buddhist monastery. Using various methods from folk music, such as embellishing, cutting, streamlining, and paraphrasing, the composer of “Deep in the Night” transforms the originally mournful melody into a powerful, passionate piece of music. In the Peking Opera pieces “Beat the Drums to Offend Cao Cao” and “Farewell My Concubine,” it accompanies multiple scenes, including “Mi Heng beats the drum” and “Yu Ji swings the sword.” Combining the strengths of different performances, this adaptation features an extended structure, which includes a prologue followed by Adagio, Moderato and Allegro sections.
7. Traditional Chinese Orchestral Piece “How Much Do You Know About Chinese Wind and Stringed Instruments?”
Composer: Guan Naizhong
Written by the famous Taiwanese musician Guan Naizhong who specializes in ethnic music, this piece was composed as an introduction to instruments in a large-scale Chinese orchestra. The piece includes a variation of the world famous Jiangsu folk song “Mo Li Hua (jasmine flower).” It takes the form of “ensemble—solo (wind instruments—plucked instruments—percussion instruments—bowed instruments)—ensemble” with individual instruments explained in detail.
8. Traditional Chinese Orchestral Piece “Great Wall Capriccio”
Composer : Liu Wenjin
“Great Wall Capriccio” is Liu Wenjin’s adaptation of his own concert piece for erhu of the same name. It is a distillation of the essence of the original piece. This powerful piece not only includes essential elements of folk music and traditional opera, but also applies Western compositional techniques. Nevertheless, it retains a strong folk music style and skillfully expresses the artistic spirit of the Chinese people.
9. Traditional Chinese Orchestral Piece “Hero of the Mountain”
Composer: Liu Xijin
Excerpt from the fourth movement of the folk symphony “Zhuang Poems”
Guangxi, surrounded by vast and imposing mountain ranges, is the land of heroes. The silent peaks resemble rank-and-file soldiers protecting the southern border of the homeland. The mighty mountain formations exude power and vitality. A new generation of Zhuang children is interpreting the immortal epics that shine upon Guangxi like the fiery rising sun.
SIGN OF THE YEAR
The Chinese Zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle, while each year is represented by an animal. These include the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
The Chinese calendar is divided not only in the twelve Earthly Branches (dìzhī地支), better known as the twelve zodiacs, but also in ten heavenly stems (tiāngān天干), such as wood, fire, earth, metal and water each combined with Yin and Yang.
The combination of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches result in a cycle of 60 years, since 60 is the first number that is divisible by ten and twelve. 2016 is thus the sign of the Fire-Monkey, which is the 33rd character in the 60-year cycle and last occurred in 1956 and will be repeated again in 2076.
Similar to the Zodiac in the West, many Chinese believe that the year in which you were born, and the respective animal, determines a person’s character.
People who are born in the Year of the Monkey (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028) are considered intelligent, confident and inventive. They are very flexible, clever and can solve most problems with ease and proof improvising ability at any time. People born in the Year of the Monkey have a common sense and are very inquisitive and enthusiastic. They don’t delay any upcoming tasks but handle them immediately.
The Fire-Monkey (year of birth 1956 and 2016) is considered particularly imaginative in order to motivate and fascinate other people. He is vital, always up for fun and full of energy and ideas. He has a fighting spirit, knows exactly what he wants, and is always one step ahead of his opponent. The Fire-Monkeys are blessed with talent, leadership skills and are considered sophisticated and smart.
According to the Chinese lunar calendar the Year of the Sheep ends on February 7th 2016, followed by the Year of the Monkey from February 8th 2016 to January 27th 2017.