In memoriam Cheng Gongliang (1940-2015) (cont'd)
In Shanghai, Cheng studied with great masters like Liu Jingshao and Zhang Ziqian. He never felt obliged to pay hommage only to ‘historical’ ways of playing (e.g. by following the relatively steady tempi or rigid rhythms of the older generation), but also generously invested his own creativity in the art of the qin. Born in 1940 in Yixing, in Jiangsu Province, he represents both the heart of the old qin tradition and the spirit of musical innovation and pioneering. From 1956 onwards, he studied the qin at the Shanghai Conservatory, but also took lessons in modern composition and in Chinese traditional folk music.
After his graduation in 1956, he developed a talent for improvising, and did not mind cooperating with (for example) contemporary composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, or sharing the stage with musicians like flutist Chris Hinze, Indian drummer Ramesh Shotham or soprano Claron McFadden. Cheng greatly appreciated musical border crossings, and felt equally at home on concert stages in Munich, Hong Kong and Tokyo or in the intimacy of his private dwelling in Nanjing. As a young man he was firmly anchored in the history and political upheavals of his own native country. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) he stayed in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, where he was involved in the composition of one of the revolutionary model operas, The Red Lantern. Later on he began to teach at the Nanjing Arts Institute, and invested a lot of time in reconstructing early qin pieces from manuscript scores.
Cheng Gongliang gave numerous concerts, both in China and in Europe, and published a number of fine CDs, not least the double album Sound of Autumn, which Jiang Zemin, during his period as Head of State, brought as a gift on visits to other Asian states. In official Chinese media and in music journals, Cheng Gongliang's lifetime achievements as a qin performer, composer and promoter have been amply commemmorated in the months following his death. Cheng Gongliang possessed various precious qin, first and foremost a thousand-year old instrument of the Tang dynasty called Qiu lai (‘Autumn aria’), which was made in AD 715, and also a fine bright-sounding qin from the Ming period (1368-1644), which he had named Wang you ( 'forgetting sorrow'). Recordings of his music can be purchased via Amazon, iTunes and several other providers on internet.