The River Of Sorrow on ERHU

The River Of Sorrow on ERHU

performed by Lim Wei Xiong

“The river of sorrow”(Jianghe Shui)” was originally a traditional tune in the Liaonan drum music. It was adapted into a double reed instruments by the musician Gu Xinshan (1927-1992) in 1951. In the early 1960s, Huang Haihuai (1935-1967), a young teacher at Hubei Art Academy, transplanted the tune to erhu. He imitated the characteristics of the reed instrument playing by using techniques such as plucking, pressing, and rubbing the strings, combined with the rich and varied bowing techniques and the special technique of sliding between notes, occasionally alternating with direct playing (i.e., not rubbing the strings), conveying the melancholy and indignation of the music.


According to Wei Siong’s recollection, the first time he encountered “Jianghe Shui” was listening to a recording of the China Broadcasting Chinese  Orchestra and erhu master Min Huifen (1945-2014). Later, because he planned to take the Grade 8 Erhu Performance examination, his erhu teacher Fang Liang demonstrated playing in class, giving Wei Siong an unforgettable musical touch. The seemingly simple melody used an unusual playing technique to bring out a thick emotion. From the moment he began to rub the strings, Wei Siong himself said that the emotions of sadness and indignation were like feelings that were trapped in his heart and could not come out.

Wei Xiong believes that the most crucial part of playing “Jianghe Shui” is the first note of the tune. This requires a full emotional build-up to pull off. The rest of the piece requires continuous changes in the bowing pressure on the right hand and the pressing force on the left hand, combined with the control of phasing breathing and the control of the volume, in order to achieve a balanced interpretation. Although the technical difficulty of this piece is not high, managing the music and emotions is more difficult. It requires layer upon layer of emotional arrangement and ups and downs, and different emotional contagions may occur when performing in different situations.