City Rhapsody - Guo Ya Zhi

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City Of Rhapsody

by Guo Ya Zhi 

Format: AQCD




Since 1991, Guo toured Western Europe, the US, Australia, Japan and other Asian countries. In 1998, Guo participated in the International Pro Musicians Competition held in New York's Carnegie Hall and outplayed two hundred musicians from more than 10 countries, walking away with the gold medal by playing six Chinese woodwind instruments. In the same year, Guo was invited to give solo performances of the suona and saxophone for then US President Bill Clinton during his visit to China. Last year he teamed up with Swiss Orchestral de la Suisse Romande to premiere China-born contemporary composer Wen Deqing's Traces IV concerto for suona.


The suona, a Chinese oboe, is believed to have been developed from Central Asian instruments such as the surnay or zurna and introduced into China 1,800 years ago. It has a distinctively loud and high-pitched sound, and is used frequently in Chinese traditional music ensembles, particularly those that perform outdoors. It is an important instrument in the folk music of northern China, particularly the province of Shandong, where it has long been used for festival and military purposes. It is still used, in combination with sheng mouth organs, gongs, drums, and sometimes other instruments, in wedding and funeral processions. 

According to historical documents, the name suona comes from the ancient Persian instrument surna, and its use was first documented in wind and percussion ensemble music in Shandong, China, 1,800 years ago. The instrument's distinct, high-pitched sound and loudness renders the suona more suitable for solo pieces rather than harmonic performances with its instrumental peers. Its characteristic timbre, sometime imprecise notes and the restrained playing of semitones holds great musical potential but now has limited practical application in modern music. 

The modernized version of the suona was developed in the mid-20th century when keys, similar to those of the European oboe, were added to the instrument's sound holes to solve the problems of narrow range and semitonal restraint. The contemporary relatives of the ancient instrument have since been incorporated into woodwind sections of Chinese traditional orchestras. 

Guo invented the award-winning removable reed in 1993, which allows for the playing of chromatic notes and complex and rapid tonal shifts without changing the suona's original features. Hailed as a milestone in the instrument's history, the simple piston device fixed to the suona's copper mouthpiece turns the instrument's segre-gative idiosyncrasy into a wide range of expressiveness. 

"The irreversible trend is toward more and more frequent encounters and fusion between different musical styles and the traditional suona can barely adapt to the new changes. With the help of removable reeds, the suona can now fit into all types of musical forms, even atonal music," Guo explained. 

Guo is the suona principal of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra and has honed an international reputation with his sensuous and colorful performances of crossover music. 



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