Han Palace Autumn Moon on Guzheng

by Loretta Tan

“Han Palace Autumn Moon” can be said to be Loretta’s entry-level zheng music piece. Her learning experience of repeatedly listening to the recordings of the Shandong zheng master Zhao Yuzhai (1923-1999) still remains fresh in her memory. When she began to formally learn how to play this piece, her original main teachers focused more on using pressure techniques to express the music, such as using the thumb’s small joint for the “support and chop” technique and “big rubbing” to emphasize its outstanding sound. The thumb’s “chop” combined with “double chops”, “ascending glissandos”, and “index finger rebounds” are all commonly used techniques to express the Shandong zheng style. In terms of applying the “breathing technique”, most teachers are accustomed to using one breath to play a phrase, but Loretta doesn’t necessarily agree.

During years of repeated learning and exploration, she found that adding a breath at certain points can make the expression stronger, rather than relying solely on “big breaths”. She believes that “big breaths” express the overall shape of the music, including its lightness and heaviness, while “pointed breaths” can be used even on a single note to enhance the musical charm. With an understanding of the “breathing technique”, the related “pressure techniques” then become meaningful in the music. For example, she would place a breath on the “big rubbing” with a quick “ascending glissando” to demonstrate a straightforward character trait, while a gentle “descending glissando” can express a woman’s delicate and gentle heart.

“Han Palace Autumn Moon” is an eight-part piece, which means it has eight phrases, each with eight measures. Usually, four extra measures are added to the fifth phrase, which means “eight boards”. The emotional expression of the phrases is constantly repeated. Previously, Loretta played this piece with a consistent melancholic emotion throughout, but as she aged, her understanding of the music became less flat and single-minded. She now feels that at the beginning of the piece, one should bring out an irreversible fate and a sense of helplessness. With the intensity of the playing and the insertion of breathing points, as one plays the fifth and sixth phrases, the layered emotions interweave until the end, evoking a seemingly weak but deeply determined palace lady’s sadness and helplessness, as well as a strong longing and yearning for love.

Loretta feels that the protagonist of the music is actually very strong and determined, and the style of playing is quite domineering. Many people may feel that this piece is more feminine, melancholic, and sorrowful, but her interpretation is based on a Shandong man’s perspective, with more expression of the masculine emotions of women, without appearing too soft and weak.




在多年的反復學習探索的過程中,她發現“頓點”的時候配,上呼吸,表達會更強烈一些,而不全然是“大呼吸”來掌握。她認為 “大呼吸”所表現的是音樂中輕重緩急的大輪廓,而“點呼吸”往往運用在哪怕是“一粒音”上,都能夠提高音樂上韻味。在理解了“呼吸法”的前提下,相關的“彈壓技法”就顯得其在樂曲的意義之所在了。打個比方,她會把呼吸點放在“大搓”的“劈”加上快速的“上滑”,來展現一個直爽的性格特點,而委婉的“下滑”卻能表現女性心細溫婉。