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April 26, 2011

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Lessons begin with Baroque

THE Shanghai audience will have access to a relatively complete and vivid picture of chamber music through a series of art classes with live performances that begins this Friday.

Shanghai ProMusica Chamber Orchestra will present four classes about chamber music at Shanghai Grand Theater, with the first one concerning "Baroque Ancient Flavor."

Apart from providing a brief introduction to chamber music in the Baroque period (around 1600 to 1760), the orchestra will also present live performances of typical music of the time so as to give a more powerful impression.

"When speaking of Baroque chamber music, the most frequently mentioned work is Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons.' But actually, there are a lot of other good works at the time rarely known by most Chinese," says Wei Meimei, artistic director of the Shanghai ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

To give the audience a more complete picture, Wei has deliberately selected some works that may not be that familiar to Chinese, but with typical characteristics of the time and style.

They include Vivaldi's "Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor," Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos," Telemann's "Violin Concerto in A Minor," Corelli's "Christmas Concerto" and Falconieri's "Chaconne in G Major."

In an attempt to largely present the original sound and beauty of the Baroque chamber music, the orchestra deliberately purchased a clavichord for the show, as it is an indispensable part of the music from that time.

"Early chamber music performances were quite exclusive ones presented in churches and palaces," says Wei. "The music is hardly passionate or dramatic. Gentle, soft and elegant are the general characteristics of the music of this time. And the clavichord, with a gentler sound than the modern piano, helps perfect the sound along with the traditional string instruments."

The clavichord, a predecessor of the piano, was a European stringed keyboard instrument developed in the early 14th century. It produces sound by striking brass or iron strings with small metal blades called tangents, while the modern piano works by small hammers knocking on the metal strings. That contributes to the softer and gentler sound of the clavichord compared with the piano.

The clavichord was found especially suitable for certain sinfonia, sonata, toccata and suite works at the time. And it also provoked many composers to create works intentionally for the clavichord. Generally, most of the works are ballet, pastorale, rondo, etude and music adapted from songs.

Bach's 32 "Goldberg Variations" are typical of the kind, according to Wei.

"The clavichord seems to appear in almost all chamber music from the Baroque time," says Wei. "Without the clavichord, there would be no Baroque chamber music."

Though many local performers tend to use electric piano instead of clavichord since the latter are hard to acquire, Wei insists that the absence of the clavichord may ruin the original feel of Baroque chamber music. "It is irreplaceable," she says.

The Shanghai ProMusica Chamber Orchestra is the successor of the Shanghai Musician Association Chamber Orchestra, which was established in 1983. It was rebuilt and renamed in 2010, with the effort of Wei as the artistic director, who is also an award-winning violinist in the United States, and joined by outstanding veteran and up-and-coming young musicians, including foreign musicians who are highly acclaimed in their own respective countries.

The following three classes concerning classic, romantic and modern chamber music will take place respectively on May 11, 13 and June 3.

Date: April 29, 3pm, 7:30pm

Venue: Drama Theater of Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 30 yuan

Tel: 6217-2426, 6217-3055


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