Zhang Zi-quan

Guangling Qin Music Series (Excerpts)

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This collection of qin music (or hu-qin, if desired) was recorded around 1986 by three of the masters of the day in classical qin music: then 87-year-old Zhang Zi Qian, who began playing the qin in 1936; Cheng Gong Liang, a member of the newer school of qin playing, who had also been a member of the Beijing Operas; and Dai Xiao Lian, who was just over 20 at the time of the recording, but had already been playing seriously for ten to 15 years. For those who don't know, the qin is a seven-stringed zither from China (though probably imported from the Mongols or other Central Asians), with a rich and deep tone, though quiet without amplification (or Chairman Mao's attempts to modernize it with steel strings and electricity). The music of the qin is usually stately and rich, and that is apparent here. The three masters of the instrument chosen for the album did quite a good job at showing the prowess possible with a well-laid out plan of events that need to take place for a work of qin music to happen (notation for qin not only tells of the notes and duration, but in what manner to pluck the strings). The best highlight of the album is probably the performance by Zhang Zi Qian of "Liqourmania" (also known as "Wine Madness"), one of the oldest works of qin music known, written by the scholar Ruan Ji, vaguely within the third century AD. This is a masterful work, despite the fact that the "immortal vomiting" coda is left out of this performance, presumably for time reasons. For a collection of qin music, rare as they are, this can hardly be beaten (at least without delving into German issues from the '60s).

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