Art in concert

Updated: 2013-03-15 07:48

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Composer Liu Yuan's orchestral piece, based on a 600-year-old landscape painting, was performed for the first time recently and is scheduled to go on a national tour. Chen Nan reports.

When composer Liu Yuan was invited to compose an orchestral piece, based on an ancient landscape painting, he was hesitant to nod.

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains is arguably the greatest work by Yuan Dynasty artist Huang Gongwang (1269-1354).

Compared with the 600-year-old painting, orchestra music is a young art genre in China, Liu says.

"Both the visual impact of the painting and the painter's emotion need to be reflected through the music, which is challenging and exciting for me," Liu says.

The composer decided to spent two months traveling to the Fuchun Mountains, southwest of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province - the place where painter Huang had spent the last years of his life and created the painting at 82 years old.

Liu, a professor of Central Conservatory of Music, conducted research about the artist to get a better understanding on the masterpiece.

"I slow myself down and imagined myself as Huang," he recalls.

The days of turning the painting into music, Liu says, felt like he was communicating with Huang spiritually.

Huang was a government official who was once sentenced to prison. After serving his time, he abandoned all intentions of attaining official rank and decided to return to his hometown.

Only at the age of 50 did Huang pick up painting seriously, which led to him becoming one of the masters in landscape painting. But to Liu, Huang was an ordinary old man, living a simple life in mountains.

"Huang had experienced ups and downs in life, which is why he had a unique perspective of life and was able to present it through such a great painting," Liu says.

Apart from the landscape, Liu says he was inspired by folk songs.

A Chinese folk orchestra concert, Dwelling in the Fu-chun Mountains, premiered at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on March 6.

Performed by the folk orchestra of Zhejiang Song and Dance Theater, the concert kicked off a national tour.

The 45-minute concert contains five musical chapters, which is like the traditional Chinese ink painting: smooth yet powerful.

Young composer Jiang Ying joined the project two years ago.

Jiang, who rose to fame for her award-winning composition, Silk Road, in 2008, contributed to two chapters of the concert, which portrays the scenery of the Fuchun Mountains and the emotion of the painter.

The painting, about 7 meters long, was burnt into two parts. One part is now in Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou and the other part in Taipei.

In 2011, the first section of the painting was loaned to the National Palace Museum in Taipei, where the two pieces were reunited in June and July 2012 for the first time since their separation more than 350 years ago.

"Though the painting looks old, I was amazed by its greatness," Jiang says, describing her feelings when she saw the painting in Taipei.

She also went to the Fuchun Mountains to visit the former residence of Huang in July 2012 and read stories about the painter.

Art in concert

"It rained a lot during my trip to the mountain, which reminded me of the feeling portrayed in the painting," she recalls.

The young composer has always wanted to add contemporary musical elements into traditional folk music, which may help audiences, especially the young generation, understand and enjoy folk music.

When she composed for Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, she included her own vision and mood.

"Living in mountains is very different compared to my life in big cities. I felt the clouds, fog and wind. The place itself is a painting," she adds.

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(China Daily 03/15/2013 page20)