Alan Brandt begins a new blog series about great concertos from the past 40 years.
“Reminiscences of Yunnan” is the title of the concerto for zhongruan and orchestra by Chinese composer Liu Xing (born 1962) written in 1984. The zhongruan (pictured), or ruan for short, is sometimes called the “Chinese lute.” It has four strings and circular body. Although the instrument is over 2000 years old, “Reminiscences” was the first major work to feature the ruan in a solo role.
At the age of 12, Liu’s parents intended for him to learn the violin. But a neighbor was an exponent of traditional Chinese instruments and convinced the boy to learn the yueqin, which is similar to the ruan. He mastered the instrument and four years later was enrolled in the Shanghai Music Conservatory. Liu became bored with his classes and instead took to improvising on the zhongruan and listening to Stravinsky.
Since the premiere of the concerto, the ruan has become more popular in both traditional and popular Chinese music. Liu Xing recently wrote a 2nd concerto for zhongrun which premiered in 2014.
Enjoy the third movement of Reminiscences of Yunnan in the original arrangement for folk orchestra.