n her recent concert in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center on Saturday evening, October 29, 2016, Jiaoyue Lyu enchanted and entranced her audience with a program rich in traditional Chinese poetic music selections. This enlightening concert was performed by Ms. Lyu on the ancient stringed instruments of Guqin and Zhu, both very significant in the traditions of Chinese music. It is also extremely valuable to the history of music and to worldwide cultures that this concert included as a major feature the New York premiere performance of the Zhu, as the very first performance of this instrument in the Western hemisphere. Jiao’s exemplary affinity with and command of these fascinating instruments reveals their uniquely expressive and innately beautiful timbre and exquisite range of tonalities. As the evening progressed, she and her musician collaborators guided the concert with graceful expertise from ancient to contemporary music modes with the introduction of electronic amplification. Each piece was at once clearly individual and yet a vital contribution to the dynamic color, sheer luxury and pristine elegance of the overall program and performance. With moments richly vibrant with soaring phrases and well-grounded resonance, Jiaoyue and the other outstanding musicians, Guqin/Guita Artist, Stephen Dydo and Wang Yang, Erhu Artist, transported their audience to ancient, present and future sensory realms and experiential modalities of music perception and performance.
Concert selections each expressed a vital human sentiment while telling a poignant, beautiful or profoundly meaningful story, painting a vivid picture in many blends of dynamic hues and subtle shades. All revealed a vibrant spark of wisdom of the ages with origins in ancient Chinese history and culture, forever burning brightly or glowing steadily throughout the years. Each composition was accompanied by stunning images and projected effects, giving the audience a visual imprint to complement and comment further on the innate beauty of each music selection. Each piece was performed with the exquisite grace and accomplished expertise of Jiaoyue Lyu and her excellent guest musicians, Stephen Dydo and Wang Yang. Using the very latest digital technology and visual presentation techniques, Jiaoyue Lyu has created a uniquely artistic multimedia performance that will remain vividly implanted in the memories and future visions of her thoroughly involved and enchanted audience.
Flowing Water (Excerpts) — Tian Wen Ge Qin Pu
This captivating composition is the longest excerpt from a 1977 recording of ‘Liu Shui,’ performed by Guan Pinghu, one of the most acclaimed qin players of the 20th century. It was selected for inclusion in the Voyager Golden Record, which was an LP recording (gold-plated) representing worldwide music. This recording was carried into outer space on NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. Subsequently, UNESCO declared Guqin music to be one of the ultimate Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003. During this excerpt, the sparkling, flowing and pooling water sings, dances and sometimes calmly pauses to encircle the listener’s senses with the incomparable creative glory of nature.
On Autumn Wind — Gu Qin Yan Zou Fa
This is one of the most celebrated small tunes, describing the longing of a youthful wife for her husband. The original version of this selection echoes another composition, Li Bai’s ‘On Autumn Wind.’ The young wife comments on the natural beauty and movement surrounding her, and then laments the absence of her husband, wondering when they will be together intimately again. She is silenced by her intense emotions, but her sad thoughts of separation continue:
“’If you shared my deep mood of longing, you would understand my suffering for love. Long separation is heartache, short separation is so intense. If I knew my thoughts of you would be so painful, better we had never met, never loved and never parted.’”
A Drunken Man — Shen Qi Mi Pu
This piece of music is taken from ‘The Mystical Secret Guqin Pieces’, and legendary accounts claim that its composer was Ruanji of the Kingdom of Wei during the period of the three kingdoms. Feigning temporary madness due to the influence of liquor, he expresses his strong dissatisfaction with the harshness of his society and existence.
Three Variations on Plum Blossom — Qin Pu Xie Sheng
According to legend, Huan Yi composed this piece for bamboo flute solo during the Jin Dynasty, and others produced a Guqin arrangement of the composition at a later date. This selection very elegantly and sensitively eulogizes the incorrigible, infinite nature of the plum blossom. This lasting blossom of delicate beauty can withstand both the harsh chill of frost and the relentless, heavy burden of steadily falling snow. This piece of music is meant to honor and praise men of noble thoughts and actions.
Confucius Reading the Book of Changes — Tian Wen Ge Qin Pu
In this piece, Confucius is reading The Book of Changes one evening in autumn as his head gently sways to the cadence of his spoken words. With excellent musicianship, the player performs the music with rapid left-hand fingering of shuang zhuang along with resplendent, resonating glissandi. The resulting effect is lyrical and melodious with reverberating notes of pure, calm beauty, and this composition holds a prominent place in the repertoire of the Shu stylistic school.
Girl’s Love — Jingqing Xu
This haunting song was played in the 1986 TV series, Journey to the West, and it paints a picture of Tang Sen’s arrival with his disciples in the Kingdom of Women. It also reveals the Queen’s feelings of affection for him:
“‘The lovebirds rest in couples and butterflies dance in pairs. Intoxicated and sweetened by a garden of spring airs.
I whisper to my love: “Am I pretty”?
Forget my noble birth, and set aside your Buddhist principles!
Let’s be always shadows of each other, the sky and earth last forever and ever:
my love, be my lover! Let us stay as a couple forever!'”
This concert included splendid solo performances by Jiaoyue and by her guest artists, Stephen Dydo and Wang Yang. In addition, there was a dynamic and innovative improvisational selection of music performed by Ms. Lyu and Mr. Dydo as a Guqin Duo. This unique and mesmerizing music gem moved seamlessly and exquisitely from ancient, traditional Chinese styles to the daring, intriguing edges of contemporary music with heights of excellence, accomplishment and pure artistic vision to educate, enthrall and delight each and every attendee in the very fortunate audience.
The four essential manifestations of cultural tradition in China are musical instruments, chess, calligraphy and painting. Among musical instruments, the Guqin reigns as the leading symbol of significance for the category of music. With a rich history spanning almost 3,000 years, the artful Guqin was an addition to the second listing of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on November 7, 2003. According to ancient words of wisdom, Guqin offers a profoundly beautiful mode by which to express an individual’s ideas while revealing one’s true nature. Throughout its history, Guqin has been an ideal artistic vehicle for humankind to convey emotions while seeking internal peace, moderation and tranquility.
After its disappearance in the final days of the Song Dynasty in China, the Zhu was virtually lost for nearly one thousand years. During this enthralling concert of fine excellence in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center in New York City, Jiaoyue Lyu introduced the Zhu to the Western World, sharing this ancient and intriguing instrument of graceful beauty and marking the very first time this instrument has been played outside of China. Ms. Lyu’s very memorable performance also holds the distinction of being the first presentation of this rare stringed instrument on such a prestigious and acclaimed concert stage and venue as the Kaplan Penthouse. At the present time, only 13 Zhu instruments exist globally, and there are currently only approximately 20 Zhu players worldwide. Jiaoyue’s recent performance gave her very fortunate audience the cherished and rare opportunity of sharing the transformational experience of its exquisite grace and newborn vitality of sound.
Ms. Jiaoyue Lyu was one of the very first performing artists to enlighten her audience, many of whom were very experienced musicians and directors of major music associations, with a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, New York, featuring the ancient Chinese instrument, Guqin, in 2014. Ms. Lyu’s 2015-2016 concert calendar has offered such acclaimed and rare highlights as a fine arts video recording for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which focused on the historic Guqin instrument and its performance. Other celebrated and distinguished events and venues of her performance season were invitations from the London Confucius Institute in the U.K. as well as from noted universities in Italy, France, Poland and the Netherlands to share her knowledge and expertise as a musician, educator and performance artist. Highlights throughout this year’s schedule of exemplary engagements have included lecture-recitals and concert tours featuring Jiaoyue and her Guqin and Zhu performances. Ms. Lyu is currently based in New York and continues to inspire, enlighten and uplift her audience with her astute understanding and highly sensitive performance of compositions for Guqin and Zhu.
Jiaoyue Lyu, M.M., is currently a Teaching Artist of the New York University IMPACT Program and an honored recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award 2014. She is an active and valued member of the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University in the Department of Music and the Performing Arts Professions.
Dr. Stephen Dydo is an internationally-known Guqin/Guita Artist, sinologist, classical guitarist and composer who holds a doctorate in composition from Columbia University. Having been a Guqin student of Jung-ping Yuan, he also had guzheng instruction from Hou Guizhe. His solo Guqin concerts include performances in the U.S., U.K. and throughout Europe as well as in China and Taiwan. Stephen has also been a presenter and solo performer at numerous concert venues in Beijing, Suzhou, Amsterdam and Brussels. In addition, he presented a self-built electric Guqin during the International Guqin Conference in 2006 at the Beijing Music Conservatory. As a co-founder of the New York Qin Society, Dr. Dydo served as the Society’s president from 2005 to 2015.
Mr. Wang Yang, an exceptional Erhu prodigy, began his music career at the age of seven and subsequently had many years of systematic music studies. He received his college education at Xi’an Conservatory of Music and was a student of professional Erhu performance under the expert guidance of the renowned Chinese Erhu Artist, Wei Jin. As an alto Erhu player, Wang held first chair position in the elite Chinese Traditional Orchestra at Xi’an Conservatory of Music. Following graduation, Mr. Yang gave a well-received concert in which he introduced both traditional and contemporary music selections that displayed his excellent Erhu performance techniques. Wang Yang currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is engaged in creating and performing experimental compositions involving world music artfully infused with Erhu.
Following this performance, Jiaoyue Lyu was honored with the presentation of the Andy King Award for her music accomplishments by New York City Council Member (12th District) Andy King. She also recognized and called to the stage Professor Elise Sobol, her mentor, to whom she affectionately refers as her “New York and U.S. Mom,” and others of influence to her career.
Elise S. Sobol, Ed. D., is currently NYSSMA Chair, Music for Special Learners and author of An Attitude and Approach for Teaching Music to Special Learners. Dr, Sobol is also a New York University Professor in the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education and Human Development, Department of Music and the Performing Arts Professions.
Photography for this performance was by Afra Lu, Theerapol Thammasitboon, Eugene Kwok.