On a Tuesday Evening, March 25, 2014, a well-known Asian performer, Guo Gan, came to New York to perform with his special guest Helen Sung Trio at one of world’s most famous concert halls, Carnegie Hall.
Guo started learning erhu in his early childhood. Erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, and in the West is also known as the “Chinese Violin” or a “Chinese two-stringed fiddle.” Through Chinese traditional erhu art, Guo has worked with many musicians and artists in different parts of the world. He has travelled to more than 70 countries, played nearly 2,000 concerts, and released more than 40 albums.
Sung is a talented Asian pianist and composer. She attended its renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. An award-winning classical pianist, before jazz intervened during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, she went on to graduate from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. An intensive program accepting only seven students, it was an unprecedented opportunity to study with the greatest masters of jazz music.
On the day of the performance, Guo and other performers did an incredible job mix-matching Asian erhu with other types of instruments. Guo has propelled the erhu into the genres of classical, jazz, ballet, opera, pop, film, and world music, and has been praised by the media along the way. Since the opening, the first few pieces that Guo played were “GO”, Autumn moon on the calm lake, The Shepherdess, Scented Maiden, Shadow Puppets, Reflections of the moon on Erquan, Northeast Minot, and Horse Race.
After the intermission, other performers came to join Guo and played The Girl with Flaxen Hair, Picasso’s Woman, Himalaya, Bei Jing “Hu Tong,” Water Woman, Tea Girl, The Five Elements: “Fire,” The Forbidden City and Erhu New York. This time other performers Boris Kozlov and Rodney Green played the Bass and Drums. “It is our first time performing together in New York, and thank you for coming to my concert,” Guo and Helen said.
On Tuesday evening, audiences were very fortunate to hear the two most famous pieces in China. The first famous piece is Reflections of the moon on Erquan. The second one is the Horse Race. Every one of the pieces played were stunning and beautiful. Especially when Guo performs, his facial expressions show real emotions and feelings to every piece. In the Horse Race, he played so well with different melodies. Most of the parts in this piece sounds like a group of horses screaming, shouting and chasing each other.
The last piece Erhu NY is great, because it feels like you are in NYC. It is very cheerful like in Time Square; many people walking around, and it feels like there are different types of people in NYC while Guo was playing the Erhu and others playing other instruments. “I want to show the essence of traditional Chinese music. I love Chinese music. I love New York,” Guo said.
The New York Times has described him as “…a magnificent performer [who] shaped melodies with the expressive contours of vocal lines in Hua Yanjun’s “Moon reflected on the ErQuan Spring” and provided flourishes that might give a violinist pause during Huang Gaihuai’s “Horse Racing.”