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Guitarists strike the right chord at SZ
Latest Updated by 2004-05-18 10:11:31

WHILE guitar players are common in China, where an estimated 800,000 guitars are made annually, the world of classical guitarists is much smaller, both here and abroad. It's a select group and three of China's finest --- one teacher and two students --- were on hand Saturday at the Shenzhen Theater to both extol and perform the music.

The players, 22-year-old Wang Yameng and Su Meng, 17, performed separatetly and together to a nearly packed house while their teacher, Chen Zhi, the godfather of Chinese classical guitar, provided commentary on the program and his students between sets.

Chen, professor of guitar at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, director and conductor of the China Broadcasting Orchestra and founder and president of Beijing's Chen Zhi Classical Guitar School, is himself a remarkable story. Originally a mathematics major who became a chemist, he was born in Shanghai where he learned classical guitar from two White Russian emigres. Along the way he also became a proficient Hawaiian guitarist. Chen survived the rigors of the "cultural revolution" when guitars were banned and musicians persecuted and often imprisoned by laboring as pedal tricyclist hauling vegetables until he finally lucked out and secured a position conducting government bands.

He established a private classical guitar school in Beijing in 1982 and since then his students, including Wang, Su, Yang Xuefei and Bai Pu among others, have distinguished themselves in international competitions.

Wang made her first big splash in 1993 when at age 12 she won the first prize at the 36th Tokyo International Guitar Contest. She has won more international honors since and recorded one CD, the critically acclaimed Caprice on the GHA label.

Su, a high school student in the Music School Attached to the Central Conservatory of Music, won the top prize at the Vienna International Youth Classical Guitar Contest last year. She was inspired to learn guitar after seeing Wang win the Tokyo reward in 1993.

Both were at their best Saturday night, with both boasting almost frighteningly perfect techniques for such young players. Wang, in particular, possesses outstanding expressive talents with first-class harmonics and tremolos that combine influences from John Williams with the soft full tones and lyrical phrasing of Segovia.

Her evocative playing on Scarlatti's Sonata and R. Gnattali's Suite Retratos was particularly impressive and more so given the fact that her picking was hampered by a broken finger nail.

Su had perhaps the unenviable task of opening for Wang but she had no problem commanding the audience's attention with her masterful handling of Paganini's Caprice No. 24, Un Seuno en la Floresta by Barrios and the difficult harmonics and changes required to nail down S. Assad's Aquarelle.

Much to the delight of concertgoers, the two performed as a duet also for several pieces including A. Peazzolla's Tango Suite which featured effortless interplay that evoked a sense of both competition and sublime mutual creation between the pair.

Editor: Wings

By:Justin Mitchell Source:szdaily
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