As part of Alain Danielou's 50th album vision, Rounder has released the volume China for its Anthology of World Music. Luckily enough, Rounder has held true to Danielou's ideas, and kept the album to classical pieces, as opposed to the newer classical works created under Chairman Mao. There are works here for the zheng, a 16-string zither, as well as the qin, a seven- string zither. Also are works for the pipa, a lute, and the xiao, a bamboo flute. The virtuosity of the musicians on the album is astounding. Li Tingsong, with only four strings, can evoke a full-scale ambush and the ensuing battle in "Shimian Maifu" (the great ambuscade). The qin pieces as well hold the beauty necessary for any great classical work for qin. "Liushui" tells the tale of a pair of friends, one a qin player and the other a woodcutter, and "Ao'ai" is based on a poem of a fisherman from the eighth century. "Meihua San Nong" is a touchingly soft duet between the qin and the xiao, and "Pingha Luo Yan" is a beautiful work of virtuosity on the zheng, with notes running rapidly enough to make Charlie Parker envious. The album ends with the long, and almost North Indian sounding qin piece "Guangling San" (the Song of Guangling), which brings the compilation to a stately close. Without delving into the earlier Barenreiter Musicaphon versions of the recordings, or Danielou's original field recordings, there is hardly a better version of Chinese classical music out there to be found than this Rounder compilation, unless it's the "silk and bamboo" music that one is looking for. Anyone with an inclination for Chinese music should definitely find this recording and listen thoroughly.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg