Wei Li – Red Cliff Capriccio released in 2008 by First Impression Music (FIM). It is a compilation containing special selected pieces of music from Wei Li’s 30 year career which includes performances on over 100 albums and 26 movies. Using 3 different Guzheng instruments (part of the zither family of string instruments) and recorded in the Skywalker Sound Studios overseen by Professor Keith John this album’s sound is breath taking. Mastered using JVC’s highly acclaimed K2 HD process which is a new mastering technique that brings the sound of 100KHz and 24-bit resolution to the standard CD.
The guzheng is an ancient Chinese plucked string instrument, in the zither family, and an ancestor of the Japanese koto. The western instrument it most closely resembles is the harp, but its bent tones, frequent use of vibrato, and pentatonic harmonies immediately identify it as an Eastern instrument.
Wei Li was born in China, but has settled in Vancouver, and this CD demonstrates his mastery of the instrument both as a composer and performer. Much of the appeal of the guzheng lies in the timbral variety it’s capable of producing, and Wei Li’s creative range as a composer fully exploits its potential. Some pieces, like “Duet Waltzing,” have a simple folk-like character with hummable tunes and straightforward chordal accompaniment, and others, such as Prelude to the Dream of the Red Chamber and Suwu, the Shepherd, while being fully accessible, are mercurial in mood and use a broad range of extended techniques, with sophisticated compositional twists. The variety of sounds and the variety of musical styles make this an album that should appeal to many listeners besides die-hard fans of cultural exotica. Then there’s Wei Li’s remarkable playing, which is never less than astonishing in its virtuosity and nuanced musicality, and his performances are characterized by passionate intensity. The sound is clean, present, and atmospheric.
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