A Night in Ancient and New China

Peak Performances brings Wu Man, a Chinese pipa player, to join the Shanghai Quartet in a musical performance of ‘A Night in Ancient and New China.’

‘A Night in Ancient and New China’ was a great evening perfomance.

The Shanghai Quartet brought Montclair and its surrounding communities a beautiful evening of music, with the help of the talented Wu Man in A Night in Ancient and New China.

The Shanghai Quartet is one of the world’s leading classical music ensembles comprised of only a small group of instruments. Violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, cellist Nicholas Tzaveras and special guest Wu Man put together a performance of lovely, diverse music. The quartet is known for their exquisite musicality and remarkable skills which was portrayed in their performance this past weekend in A Night in Ancient and New China at the Alexander Kasser Theater. They come to Montclair State University twice a year to impress audiences with their music, which they succeeded in doing on Friday night.

A Night in Ancient and New China
Photo courtesy of Ben Doyle.

Special guest and pipa player, Wu Man, was a huge asset to the show. She is known for her talent in playing this unique instrument all over the world. She has won many awards including the prestigious award of 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year and is currently nominated for the Independent Music Awards best traditional album.

A Night in Ancient and New China opened with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor, op. 95. Throughout the night, sounds of the East and West were melded together so brilliantly with wide ranging pieces moving into contemporary Chinese folk, including pipa solos. Each musical piece flowed beautifully from one to the next, captivating the audience one by one. What really knotted the performance, though, was the work that, so exquisitely, brought the pipa and quartet together, Red Lantern.  

“[Red Lantern] is a tribute to my father and to the great tradition of music from China. Inspired by Chinese traditional Beijing Opera, this work explores its unique musical style and language with the many colors of our traditional music. The quintet is a suite of stories that take place in a traditional Chinese private courtyard through the centuries. It tells an emotional story of Chinese family relationships in older times and the impact of the family’s isolation from society,” said Chinese composer, Zhao Lin, in regards to Red Lantern, which was inspired by his father’s original Raise the Red Lantern.

The quartet, along with the pipa, attained a lively collaboration that seemed to come together quite naturally. Notable for their dynamic performances, they filled the theater with impulsive, yet smooth, transitions of powerful sounds. Although they definitely portrayed the forceful side of their music, graceful and intimate movements were presented as well.

The quartet concluded the evening leaving the audience with goosebumps. A full standing ovation was met with an overwhelming round of applause in the final moments of the performance. The popularity of the show was evident and it can ultimately be assumed that we will be in for a full-house when they return in the spring for another astonishing performance.

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