The Oct. 4 Style review of a performance by the Inner Mongolian Chorus incorrectly identified the instrument played by an accompanist. It was a matouqin, not an erhu. (Published 10/8/2005)
The second day of the Kennedy Center's month-long Festival of China attracted a sizable crowd of music lovers, who, on Sunday evening, indulged in choral and orchestral performances that combined traditional folk songs with the sounds of Western music.
Making an impressive U.S. debut on the center's Millennium Stage, the Inner Mongolian Chorus sang colorfully before a standing-room-only audience that spilled down the grand foyer. Dressed in ethnic costumes -- the women in pine-green velvet frocks and white headdresses, the men in white robes with green headdresses -- the 35 singers of the a cappella ensemble responded sensitively to conductor Yong Rubu. Their evenly balanced, atmospheric voices evoked the mountainous landscape of their country, an autonomous region in northern China.
Such pure, vibrato-free singing supported the male soloists, who called forth ancient melodies filled with longing. Some of the group's selections, on the other hand, bounced along like sea chanteys.
The performance also featured nonchoral friends: a dancer, a musician playing the erhu (a two-string instrument, held upright and bowed), a small troupe of singers playing string instruments and a female traditional vocalist.
In the Concert Hall, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra gave dramatic and passionate performances of works penned by compatriots.
Chen Qigang's "Iris Devoilee" (Iris Unveiled), a nine-movement work that had its premiere in Paris in 2003, blends traditional Chinese instruments and Peking opera singing with modern orchestral idioms. Led by Music Director Long Yu, the orchestra featured sopranos Huang Ying and Cui Zheng-rong, Peking Opera's Ma Shuai, and Wang Nan on erhu, Ge Yong on pipa (lute), Sun Xin on zheng (zither).
The two sopranos demonstrated extraordinary coloratura skills on the frantic-sounding third movement, "Libertine." But it was Huang, whose crystalline voice traveled up the range effortlessly and vibrantly, who accomplished much of the work's challenging solos.
Just as the final movement of "Iris" inspired some of the orchestra's most emotionally charged sounds, the third movement of Xiaogang Ye's Cantonese Music Suite, Op. 51, prompted the evening's most ardent playing.
But the clear winner of the night was pianist Lang Lang, performing Yin Chengzong's "Yellow River" Piano Concerto. The second movement, with its romantic musings, offered reflective repose while the delicate third movement sparkled.
The festival continues with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra on Sunday at 8 p.m. and the Shanghai Symphony on Oct. 17 at 8 p.m., when film composer Tan Dun will conduct the Washington premiere of his multimedia work, "The Map."