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What does the Tchaikovsky concerto sound like in Chinese?

Much improved, in parts. Here’s a performance on traditional Chinese instruments. The soloist is playing on just two strings, D and A. Warning: once you’ve listened, you’ll never get this version out of your ears.

Hat-tip: Rumon Gamba.

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  1. richardcarlisle says:

    A violin and two piano Cs — could you specify?

    • richardcarlisle says:

      Unique tone and range between viola and cello it appears… a very worthy entry in the wealth of this concerto.

  2. Michael P Scott says:

    Better not show this to the current crop of buffoons running (ruining?) America’s orchestras. Their thinking will go something like this:

    “Hmmmm. Erhu has half the number of strings — that’s an immediate 50% reduction in materiel.

    “And compared to the avaricious salaries of musicians in this country, this guy probably makes (estimated) $30k/year — that’ll save us tons of money so we can build MORE new shrines to our board’s egos.

    “And, Hey! It’s a global society, isn’t it? We’ll get PR kudos for being the first American orchestra to have all Chinese musicians. Think of what that will do to our market penetration and recognition in the Middle Kingdom.

    “And our recording sales will go through the roof.

    “And they play workers’ music — just wait till you hear ‘Sheep on Grassland,’ and ‘I Love Beijing’s Tiananmen!’ The ‘Yellow River Concerto’ was conceived in a cave!

    “We can’t lose.”

    • Glen Rayment says:

      Very sad, but that’s probably exactly what’s going to happen…

  3. Does anyone know who the orchestra are?

  4. Skripach says:

    Is that a Music Minus One orchestra backing him? Or is there a real orchestra around the corner somewhere?

    • that was my immediate thought as well.
      Whatever the case, an intensely musical performance which made me hear the piece afresh.

    • A poor minus-one performance, I reckon.

  5. Remarkable performance! This reminds me of an encounter during my first trip to China, before TIan An Men. I found myself sitting next to a young Chinese man who was very excited to be sitting next to a classical musician. He proudly showed me a book of Whitman poems and his Walkman, with a tape of the Tchaikowsky VIolin Concerto. He explained that, in an effort to improve himself, he listened to a great work of music and read some great literature every day. I often wonder where that man is today, and what he is doing.

    • Sixtus says:

      I also wonder if that young man has come out yet, given his choices of great works.


  6. stella says:

    Wow! Bravo!

  7. The soloist is George Gao, an erhu master who has performed with many leading orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia, most recently with the Pacific Symphony in March of 2013 in a performance of the original erhu version of “The Butterfly Lovers.” Gao is the inventor of a modern version of the erhu, Shaoqin Erhu, and also a composer, whose credits include co-composing the scores for Bill Moyers’ documentary “Becoming American: The Chinese Experience” and the Oscar-winning documentary “The Blood of Yingzhou District.”

  8. John Soloninka says:


  9. Back in the 90′s and early 00′s he was one of the limited number of musicians with official performance permits allowing him to play the erhu in the Toronto subway transit stations. His preferred spot was the Spadina station, and he was able to stop you in your tracks with simple but oh how evocative and mesmerizing traditional Chinese melodies, way, way above the usual standard of subway musicians–at least that was the effect he had on me, Sehnsucht and Innigkeit Chinese flavour, I suppose. A real musician in any case, and hard to tear yourself away from in order to continue to your destination.

  10. Extraordinary, and also not easy to keep in synch with Music Minus One

  11. Daniel Marin says:

    I had the opportunity to listen this amazing instrument live.I was charmed by it’s sweetness.It has a very expressive sound.Before to judge the artist,you better try to feel and (maybe) to play on this instrument.I admire Gao very much.Bravo!

  12. ,,The soloist is playing on just two strings, D and A” is wrong – he is plaiyng on G and D. The performer is fantastic and the whole UTUBE construction is in a technological nonsense . ,,…range between viola and cello…” another nonsense. Mr Cabbagejuice makes a bit more sense . Conclusion – ADMIRABLE erhu virtuoso serving an useless cause . Next to be the Brahms concerto on kazoo??

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