The Art of the Chinese Xiao & Hulusi
Heart of the Dragon Ensemble
Release date: 25th March 2022
Cat ID: NXW76161-2
Label: Naxos World
March 25th, 2022, sees the latest release from the renowned Heart of the Dragon Ensemble – ‘The Art of the Chinese Xiao & Hulusi.’
Founded by acclaimed composer Jiang Li, the Heart of the Dragon Ensemble is a UK-based cadre of experienced Chinese musicians. While these in-demand artists are all kept busy with their respective projects, they have reunited once again to produce an experimental and captivating album that combines the traditional music of their homeland with the western influences they have discovered during their time in the UK. The very genesis of the album came from conversations about their work and lives and how their previous collaborations had naturally drawn exclusively from China’s musical heritage. Inspired by modern life and their integration into English society, ‘The Art of the Chinese Xiao & Hulusi’ is a bold crossing of cultures that offers listeners a unique and compelling musical experience.
The xiao – a vertically-played single pipe bamboo flute – is an ancient instrument deeply immersed in China’s cultural heritage. Having evolved over the years, the contemporary xiao produces a range of soft and elegant sounds and allows versatility, playing solo or accompanying other instruments. Ensemble-member Hu Ruijun brings the evocative tones of the xiao to life for the album.
The hulusi – likely less familiar than other traditional Chinese instruments – offers western audiences a new sound and style. Its physical distinctiveness of three bamboo pipes passing through a gourd wind chest alludes to the unique sound this instrument provides. The rich and emotional tones allow the artist, Qiu Zenghui Joanna, a broad expression level well-suited to the album’s compositions.
Indeed, each piece was explicitly written to play to the individual instruments' strengths and traits, allowing the artists to paint pictures with sound and granting an immersive experience for listeners. This achievement may be because the ensemble has worked together on multiple projects over many years. Such familiarity allowed Jiang Li to compose ambitious pieces, confident in the performer’s mastery of their respective instruments.
While the distinctive sounds of the xiao and hulusi are the album’s focus, they are supported by other traditional Chinese instruments, including the pipa, yangqin, erhu, sheng and guzheng. When blended with western drums, strings, guitar, and piano, they form an impressive array that produces the unique, cultural cocktail ‘The Art of the Chinese Xiao & Hulusi.’