Jia Peng Fang – Moonlight

Jia Peng Fang – Moonlight – 4/5

There was a point in time when I alluded that this was an album that needed to be reviewed; discovered following my obsession with the last Chthonic album, and of particular importance, the manner the erhu performed in their compositions. It wasn’t long that I uncovered this chinese instrumentalist that demonstrates his mastery of this rarely heard art, serenading us with a distinctly orientally toned thematic tragedy, combining an elegant beauty with an overbearing sense of loneliness and despair.

The first point to elaborate on would be an explanation of what an erhu actually is, as it isn’t an instrument often found in western music. Since an image can say a thousand words, i’ve found an image and added to the right of this paragraph. Almost an odd type of violin, with only two strings and snake skin used to reverberate the sound from the base, rather than fretting the string, instead the finger is simply placed upon it to alter its pitch.

The result of all this is a highly distinctive delicate sound with an incredibly warm, bittersweet, earthen timbre. Originally intended to mimic the voice, with great emphasis placed on the control of volume and tremolo to create melodies that combine the sorrow of the greatest classical works whilst defying the epic orchestration they require. Displaying his prowess at this versatile instrument being used to display a great number of emotions, he takes the forefront of the music but at no point works alone. Always complemented superbly by carefully worked orchestration including most notably acoustic guitars, piano and violins, that whilst their western association could easily detract from the ethnic tone strived for, succeeds in doing nothing more than provide a warmth to the background, creating a thick and lavish framework for the erhu to perform its peaceful serenade.

Part of the beauty of this is that it succeeds in making its point, providing an atmosphere with a universal emotion that defies language barriers, not requiring concentration to interpret the lyrics as the music simply washes over you with its calming melodies. Compositionally, it may not be the most creative or experimental work conceived, they’re not trying out anything new as much as they are reminiscing about the very old, transporting us to the tranquility of the Yellow River or the breathtaking expanses of the Jinggangshan mountains with them. This is one classical album sure to be like little else in your collection.

Highlights: Tango of Asia, Mai Kyoko, Cherry Blossoms