Diary note 19: A concert of Chinese music at the House of Lorentz



I feel grateful to my friends who arranged a pipa concert at the occasion of my birthday. It fulfilled my dear wish to hear Chinese music performed at this national monument in the Netherlands, which itself dates from the middle of the 16th century. So far only Western music had been performed there . The sixty or so friends that attended the concert have experienced a unique event.

In commemoration I post the program on my website.




Featuring Ms Zhang Yin


The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12–26. The pipa appeared in the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BCE) and was developed during the Han Dynasty. It is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for over two thousand years in China. Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the Pipa; these include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà, and the Korean bipa. The Korean instrument is the only one of the three that is no longer used.





1   High Mountain Flowing Water

Considered amongst the ten best-known ancient Chinese melodies. It is deeply symbolic – the ancients believed water and mountains represented the earth’s blood and bones. It is composed by Yu Boya, who lived during the Spring and Autumn Period or the Warring States period of China (771 – 467 BCE). This piece tells of the deep friendship between the composer and his woodsman companion Zhong Ziqi, often used to represent a profound friendship or zhi yin 知音(knowing music together). After Zhong died, Yu left behind music forever, saying that nobody will ever understand his music and his mind again. During the Tang dynasty (618-907), the work was divided into two pieces; the ‘Running Water’ section was launched into orbit as part of the 1977 NASA Voyager Golden Record.


2   Lear Dreaming

In 2015, ZHANG Yin performed in Lear Dreaming, conceived and directed by ONG Keng Sen in Theater de la Ville, Paris. In this adaptation by Ong of Shakespeare’s 17th century “King Lear”, the performance takes the perspective of Lear’s daughter (Goneril). This musical suite consists of 3 short pieces, the first where she tricks her father to bequeath his kingdom to her, the second is in the deep of the night as she reflects on killing her father and the last is the moment when Lear dies of a broken heart. This music is composed by pipa maestro Wu Man, who originated the part with Ong, in the 2012 premiere.


3   Dance Along the Old Silk Road

An ancient trade route which is now in the Xinjiang (Uighur) province in China. It is composed by Yang Jing in 1993. It won the first China Chamber Music Composition Competition in 1994. “Dance” is an overview of Yang’s compositions for her chosen instrument, the Pipa, that has enormous capabilities in terms of sounds and expressive qualities. Yang Jing draws a number of ideas from other musics into her own, such as sitar music, the chromatic Tang Dynasty Yan music scale, the blues and the avant-garde, weaving them into a fabric that is a diaphanous, silky and intoxicating blend. “Dance” was chosen as a compulsory piece for the 2004 China National Pipa Competition for its complex virtuosity.


4   Lear Dreaming Epilogue

(Song with the text of Rio Kishida)


“I have no mother. I do not need a father.

I am a drifting boat of destiny.

I am a daughter of the gods.

In your old age, you are now a powerless, ugly scarecrow.

And I am now a powerful puppet of the gods.

Die, father! Die, father!

Killing you, from this day on, I am my own ruler.

I have no mother. I do not need a father.

I am a drifting boat of destiny.”


5   A Moonlit Night on the Spring River

Originally a Pipa solo by an unknown composer, this piece has been popular in China since the Ming Dynasty. Its earliest score was first seen on handwritten copies around 1820 A.D. In 1895, it was collected in 13 Sets of Pipa Music Scores by Li Fangyuan. It is also known as “Pipa of Xunyang.” In 1929, Shen Haochu titled it “Flute & Drum Music at Dusk” in his Yangzheng Pipa Scores. Around 1925, two musicians in Shanghai rearranged it into a Chinese national orchestra piece, and titled it, “A Moonlit Night on the Spring River”, after a Tang Dynasty poem by Zhang Ruoxu. Unlike other famous poets such as Li Bai who had written thousands of good poems, Zhang Ruoxu has only two poems documented. “Moonlit Night” was performed in the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2008 Olympic games




On 25th February 2018 at the Lorenz House

For the occasion of the 85th birthday of

Adriaan van der Staay