Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso on erhu

April 14, 2008 at 05:41 AM · An interesting item pinched from Maestronet that I don't think has been posted here yet (at least not that I could find on searching). :)

Now for something completely different - Sun Huang's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso played on the Chinese erhu.


Replies (41)

April 14, 2008 at 06:33 AM · Neil, I recall seeing this one before and we had some pretty heated discussion about erhu as well.

April 14, 2008 at 07:47 AM · Wow, that totally blew my socks off.

I have seen quite a few virtuoso erhu performances and they were all rather impressive, but this one has got to be by far the most outstanding erhu performance of anything I have come across.

Very nice!

Thanks for posting this.

April 14, 2008 at 11:59 PM · wow...1:53

April 15, 2008 at 12:22 AM · Unbelievable! It's pretty sad that an erhu-ist plays that piece that much better than I do...sniff. :-(

It's funny how she piles the flowers and stuffed animals on the erhu--guess they're not as fragile as violins.

April 15, 2008 at 12:43 AM · How do you post a video?

April 16, 2008 at 12:19 AM · What a silly comment. This is not anymore insulting to Saint-Saens than Kreisler's Cappricio Chinois (or any other Western made "chinois" piece) is insulting to Chinese culture. If anything, it is an expression of admiration, an hommage.

April 16, 2008 at 01:25 AM · "From David Wilson

Posted on April 15, 2008 at 08:58 PM

Funny, yet insulting to Saint Saens!!! What will they think of next? - a chinese man dressed up as Beethoven in a movie?????"

Why not?

Use your imagination.

April 16, 2008 at 06:52 PM · What a pity that her good facility isn't accompanied by some musical taste. It sounds to me way "over the top", maudlin, hammy, exaggerated and totally unconvincing. There is a great amount of "feeling", all of which sounds completely synthetic. The beat is frequently broken instead of bent. Individual notes call attention to themselves while any sense of a phrase is lost. This has not at all to do with the transfer from violin to erhu, she accomplishes that very well. It results from an absence of the artistic integrity that fine actors have, and ham actors don't.

April 16, 2008 at 07:30 PM · mr steiner is a respected player and teacher and therefore his opinion should be taken not lightly.

having said that:), my opinion (nothing to do with music, just a reaction to her playing) is that i like her presentation. i am not sure in what context is this presented. is she trying to imitate a violin version? by the way, how should a violin version sound like:)? erhu music tends to sound very draggy and earthy. if her intention is to present a blend that she felt appropriate, she's got our attention because we have listened to it:)

now, do i think someone on violin should try to sound like her? no. (well, actually, i don't mind for myself! could get more coins in the subway! :)

April 16, 2008 at 08:07 PM · I completely agree with you Oliver, but still find it interesting anyway. Probably because it is so glitzy.


April 16, 2008 at 08:43 PM · Neil Cameron wrote: "I completely agree with you Oliver, but still find it interesting anyway. Probably because it is so glitzy."

An interesting point...You prompt me to ask myself: Why am I offended by it instead of finding it interesting?

Because violin playing has the potential (as exemplified by the Heifetz performance of Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, for example) to convey a sincere reaching and yearning for the noblest of human feelings. When someone instead presents contrived, synthetic and phony glitz, I'm offended! It is like something holy is being desecrated. It makes me angry. This is why I was offended on hearing Giles Apap (on an earlier, lengthy thread). I can't take this sort of thing lightly.

Fritz Kreisler's playing is for me, an example of the polar opposite of the dishonest, tasteless glitz that offends me. It appeals to the highest feelings. Kreisler's playing shows us that music can communicate with an honesty that transcends other forms of human communication. He's not "playing to the gallery".

April 16, 2008 at 11:35 PM · Understandable sentiments Oliver and for much of it I agree. However, I also feel that the experimentation involved in trying a piece in such a different way may result in a whole new dimension.

As for the deepness being brought out in a piece without excessive flashiness, for me Heifetz does that best. His lack of physical emotion so completely belies the emotion inherent in the music he makes.

In some ways it's also an "it takes all types..." example.


April 17, 2008 at 12:12 AM · It seems outright silly to be offended by the interpretation. Exquisitely played, and whether or not 'phrasing' or 'individual notes' should be given more attention in a piece of music, is up to the musician. Which one is more important is a matter of subjectivity.

One can put their focus on a melody, or put their focus on what COMPOSES the melody. Both are equally valid methods, and there is beauty to be found in both styles of interpretation. If all playing focused on phrasing and the things you mentioned, I believe that it would add a static layer to classical music. Diversity allows for a wider array of emotions, amount of people touched by the music, and allows a piece of music to have many interpretations to give it more immortality.

April 17, 2008 at 12:28 AM · I like a wide diversity of interpretations if, in each of them, the playing is good.

April 17, 2008 at 12:43 AM · here is a famous, if not THE MOST famous erhu piece, performed on erhu.


April 17, 2008 at 01:29 AM · As for Erhu pieces, I highly recommend "The Running River" (it is about a woman's love for her deceased husband). Listening to it can be a haunting experience.

April 17, 2008 at 02:58 AM · Oh Dear! The China Relief Expedition under Maj.Gen. Oliver Steiner is on its way to suppress the Erhu boxer uprising. Crush the chinamen, their culture is barbarian.

Make the name Saint-Saens remembered in China for a thousand years so that no chinaman will ever again dare to even squint at a Saint-Saens.

[for the avoidance of doubt, this post contains sarcasm.]

April 17, 2008 at 02:35 PM · Benjamin K.,

Please scrutinize every word of my posts if you wish, and you will see that the issues I'm raising have absolutely nothing whatever to do with ethnicity. I'm speaking out against bad performances. Giles Apap does not share Ms. Huang's ethnicity. It's easy to distract from the actual content of my posts with sarcastic inferences of racism or ethnic bias. It might get a cheap laugh, but it is harmful fabrication. The words remain posted for anyone to see.

April 17, 2008 at 03:37 PM · Are you speaking of his performance of the Mozart concerto, where he sang/did some unorthodox practices? I think that it was absolutely fantastic, adding a level of creativity and innovation to a piece that has become somewhat dull through so many endless interpretations that are all corely the same.

April 17, 2008 at 03:34 PM · This is one of those cases where one can get way over his head. It is easy to read Oliver's criticism of that particular erhu rendition and react with disagreement: "but I liked it!" was my first internal reaction. But while we are all free to spout at the mouth, some of us have better insight and I think this is one of those cases.

This is an example of where a highly educated person just can't "win" the argument with a fool--if the fool can't see his own ineptness, then of course he's right. (Actually, he's wrong, but the master won't see much point in trying to teach him).

Oliver speaks from the experience of knowing what that piece of music can be--something that a fool (me for instance) isn't so keenly aware of at first blush.

Yes, experience and education matter--in music too. That doesn't mean that the music of fools is invalid or unreedeming; rather merely keep all in perspective. A fool can enjoy classical, but he may not get all that there is to get out of it.

April 17, 2008 at 04:30 PM · there is no doubt that mr steiner is a master in violin and it is always interesting to read his insightful perspectives. his postings are a must read for me on this forum. for someone of his statue, it is awefully gracious for him to share his thoughts.

however, to play devil's advocate, there are other perspectives out there, some of which are perhaps based on the fool theory, some may not be, because the world is not black and white. or take it or leave it.

disagreement can be based on the fool theory, or not. may be some other very qualified musicians have thought about this, and with their own master perspective come up with a different viewpoint from mr steiner's. even Chairman Mao said, let a hundred flowers blossom:)

music education is a long process of give and take. not every single event that has happened in top music schools is necessarily a golden moment of awakening. whose idea is above reproach in this universe? above all, don't lose one's individuality!

friend of mine is arguably one of the best ER physicians out there, sharp as sharp can be, now heading the dept in Emory. his line to his students is this: trust no one, believe nothing. if your teacher tells you the patient has a fib, don't take his word for it. grab the EKG and read it yourself and come to your own conclusion. you people have no idea how many medical malpractice lawsuits are out there simply because great doctors fail to watch their own backs because they trusted others at the risk of harming a patient.

i think this is a very very important lesson for violin students in an industry full of idol worship, ego massage, anecdotes and since- my- teacher- sounds- great- i- will- follow- everything- he- says. the students grow right into the master's shadow and kiss the development that they are entitled to goodbye.

question, question, question,,,even if it seems offensive! your duty is not to agree, but to come to your own conclusion and develop your own judgement.

April 17, 2008 at 03:54 PM · No matter what the Chinese do, there's always somebody who has got to bash them. And even if they assimilate to the point where they become 100% perfect Western imitations, somebody will complain that they still look Chinese. A little tolerance of other cultures goes a long way, but obviously that's not our greatest strength.

Has anybody even considered the possibility that this interpretation might not have been meant for us? that it might have been meant for a Chinese audience only? that the Chinese might find it more satisfying when it is "glitzy"?

See, the Chinese have learned from their encounters with us, they have long figured out that they should just totally ignore us arrogant snobs and do whatever they please for their own sake for they know they can't please us anyway, so why should they bother?!

I am reminded of one of those corollaries in the book Murphy's Laws which goes "You have taken yourself too serious".

April 17, 2008 at 04:57 PM · ben, i don't think mr steiner has ANY intention of playing the race card into the analysis of the music presentation or the lack of:) he was simply appalled by "it". to be honest, i am not too sure what "it" is about, but sure it is not about race or china. sure, the player seems quite if not too intoxicated into the playing, may be the gesturing is too suggestive/expressive? dunno. i know if a lady acts too sexy, i go...eeeelllll.

as far as china bashing is concerned, it is understandable. an earlier post used the word "they" when referring to the chinese. i wonder who are.... "we"?

of late, with the tibet situation, with poisons in seemingly everything, with cheap violins a few of which actually sound darn good, with some i know driving ferraris in beijing and shanghai whereas some of us are having a tough time under bush regime, it is understandable that there will a mixture of sour tastes in the mouth of the west. i say we protest and no beef and brocoli for take out tomorrow!

April 17, 2008 at 04:50 PM · if the interpretation wasn't meant for a Western audience then he has no business to be appalled by it, period.

April 17, 2008 at 04:57 PM · You know, I think as classical musicians, we tread some dangerous territory with this discussion.

Many erhu players sharply criticize Yo Yo Ma's interpretation of Chinese music in the Silk Road Project. Numerous jazz musicians have taken exception to Itzhak Perlman's jazz stylings. Yet classical musicians tend to laud these two as unique artistic trailblazers, not inauthentic wannabe's.

In other words, we can either call Sun Huang outside the bounds of "good taste" and throw her efforts, plus the analogous works of Mr. Perlman and Mr. Ma in the the same aesthetic graveyard, OR settle down and praise all three as wonderful fusion artists.

In sum, I am sure that any great musical exponent of a non-Western culture will inevitably fail many standards set by Western art music. So is it fruitful to criticize a "good" erhu artist for not sounding like a "good" violinist? Probably not.

April 17, 2008 at 04:56 PM · "So is it fruitful to criticize a "good" erhu artist for not sounding like a "good" violinist? Probably not."

thanks Lewis, I couldn't agree more.

April 17, 2008 at 04:59 PM · P.S. Mr. Wilson, if Ben Kingsley can appear as Gandhi, why shouldn't an Asian individual play the part of Beethoven?

April 17, 2008 at 05:04 PM · Benjamin K. wrote: "if the interpretation wasn't meant for a Western audience then he has no business to be appalled by it, period."

Maybe I should have tried that with Miss DeLay. Anytime she told me that a passage wasn't good, I could have said: "This wasn't intended for you. Where I come from they like to hear it just as I played it. I'll leave it as it is and expect a grade of A."

April 17, 2008 at 05:06 PM · @ Lewis

your suggestion might not be that far fetched, in particular not if the actor is South Asian. Beethoven had quite dark skin due to which his friends nicknamed him "the Sicilian" ;-)

April 17, 2008 at 05:11 PM · @ Oliver Steiner

I cannot remember anybody ever to have tried to sneak in a worse analogy. You were playing for her, were you not?! Also, you were playing a *violin* for a *violin* teacher. I don't even think I would be leaning myself too far out of the window if I assumed that you were playing Western music for a teacher of Western music. No culture mismatch there whatsoever, hence not applicable.

April 17, 2008 at 05:24 PM · How finely do you draw these boundries of immunity to criticism? Is it invalid for someone from the Bronx to criticize the playing of someone from Manhattan? May an Australian musician criticize an American performance?

April 17, 2008 at 05:39 PM · I ask again, how do you know Sun Huang played this piece with the intent to match Western norms, that it wasn't her intent to play it according to Chinese norms?

I cannot possibly imagine that Ms Delay would have criticised this without first asking the erhu performer the question "Did you intend to closely imitate a Western style violin rendering?"

I am not talking about "immunity to criticism" either. I am talking about cultural context. Like Lewis said, it makes no sense to criticise a rendering given within the context of one culture with the norms of another. You can only meaningfully criticise with the norms of the culture in which context the rendering was performed.

April 17, 2008 at 05:40 PM · Ben, you have every right to like the performance. Just as Oliver has every right to dislike it. For you to play the race card is somewhat nonsensical.

I'd also add that Oliver eloquently and intelligently gave his reasons for disliking the performance. For you to respond in such an agressive manner is not conducive to an interesting debate, it's just an incitment to argument

Personally, I agree with Oliver, the performance was horribly hammy and absolutely dripping with excessive, sacchrine emotions. The piece is a wonderfully emotional work as written and I don't think it needed even more sweetness applied for it to work. If it's bad analogies you want then I'd throw "It's like feeding a diabetic sugar" into the mix. :)

Now having said that, I'm like Bilbo a few posts back; I liked it despite knowing all that.

Maybe my liking was based around the novelty aspect of hearing/seeing it played on erhu. Who knows. However, it would be great to hear the piece played on erhu but without the excessive emotion.

Just my $0.06 (adjusted for inflation, exchange rates and GST).


(an Australian living in Nth America)

April 17, 2008 at 05:41 PM · Race does not equal culture. I was asking for respect of other cultures and their norms. My criticism is directed at the notion that we can judge everything with Western norms. This would be no different, whether I like the performance or not. For example, I don't generally enjoy Indian sitar music, so if somebody was giving a rendering of this piece on a sitar in an Indian context, I would probably not like it but I would still criticise the notion to judge it based on Western norms.

April 17, 2008 at 05:40 PM · I believe that music is universal. Quality has not to do with conforming to norms, national traditions, trends or fashions. Kreisler's playing speaks to all humans. Players of every ethnicity and era have the potential to achieve these heights. Music can transcend geography and time.

April 17, 2008 at 05:52 PM · In that case you should also be criticising Mozart and other Western composers for misappropriating Turkish music in what is referred to as "alla turca" or "turkish march" because that ain't truthful to the turkish music which inspired it either. Likewise Kreisler's cappriccio chinois is anything but Chinese, Strauss' Egyptian march is anything but Egyptian. Clearly they either violated the norm by not exactly hitting the original style, or the indigenous music of those countries is wrong because it's not in the universal flavour you proclaim.

Then there are all those Jazz renderings of classical pieces or themes of classical pieces. What about those? Are they acceptable adaptations simply because Jazz is also Western? Where do *you* draw the line of how much adaptation to local culture is permissible?

April 17, 2008 at 06:22 PM · I think it's a bit of a stretch to say music is universal, when cultural and environmental conditioning play a massive role in defining beauty to the human mind.

I also can't understand the point of view of 'too' much emotion in playing. Emotions of great force and amount are inherent parts of human feeling, and if music's goal is to influence human emotion, such music reasonably applies to the capacities and experiences we have with overwhelming, gushing emotion.

April 17, 2008 at 07:30 PM · Neil Cameron wrote: "Personally, I agree with Oliver, the performance was horribly hammy and absolutely dripping with excessive, sacchrine emotions."

That's my entire point. All of it. I'm talking about what I heard, not what country the player is from. You and I have a right to speak out against this sort of playing. We should not be silenced because we are not from one country or another. Hammy playing is a horrible thing that shouldn't be tolerated nor encouraged. Musicians should be encouraged to play like fine actors act, not like ham actors.

April 17, 2008 at 08:16 PM · I think that almost everyone acknowledges Kreisler, (or for that matter Milstein, Oistrakh, etc.) to be better than other violinists on grounds of artistic expression.

But to anyone who believes all aesthetic criteria to be identical, I have a request. Please watch Chinese opera and compare it to Western opera. Please listen to Haitian voodoo drumming and compare it to Johann Fischer's Concerto for Timpani. You may like one over another, but if you like both, my guess is that it won't be for the same reason, let alone, the same standards of taste.

(P.S. Also, the standards of taste differ even in Western music, especially in the last century. Is Cage's "Music of Changes" a masterwork because of its long flowing lines? Was Musique concrete about performing with a refined sense of tone? And finally is it fair to criticize Cage's lack of long lines or Musique concrete lack of "refined" tone?)

April 17, 2008 at 08:24 PM · In regards to the comparison of acting: In acting is that through acting the model is to portray a character that, usually, is going to be written on a model of an 'realistic' personality. Just as in acting, though, country DOES matter. Culture affects what is 'realistic' in terms of personality, and so in the west an actor might be considered 'fine' but if viewed by a culture where communication and customs are vastly different, the actor is not realistic to them, only realistic in comparison to the culture it's trying to apply to.

Musical subjectivity works in the same way.

April 18, 2008 at 09:16 AM · The bit at the end reminds me of something from Crackajack (you'd probably have to be aged 30 or above and live in the UK to get that).

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

2023 Authenticate LA: Los Angeles Violin Shop
2023 Authenticate LA Shopping Guide Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine