When the scent of jasmine delights the senses….

For ancient China, the order of the universe was the model of order on earth and among people. The man was virtuous who thought in accordance with nature and acted accordingly. The harmony in the Chinese arts, in buildings, bridges, landscape paintings and gardens was an expression of cosmic reconnection. Among many other plants, jasmine was highly honoured for its scent.

It is therefore no wonder that the jasmine blossom has also attracted great attention in Chinese folk music. In one song it is described in this way:

Look, how lovely this bouquet is! Plucked early from the dewy shrub, now by a kind hand Love announcing sent to me! 0 you fragrant flowers! Hours so happy!

Most beautiful flower, most lovely of the year! Every eye probably followed with envy, If I deceive you through the streets No, to others I bind you And only at home I have my bliss.

Probably the most famous folk song from China concerning jasmine is the song “Mo Li Hua”, which was created during the Qianlong era (1735-1796) of the Qing Dynasty. There are several regional versions of the song with different texts and melodies. One version of the song describes a custom of giving jasmine flowers as is popular in the southern Yangtze Delta region of China. Another, longer version describes the fear of picking the flower. It was played on old metal bells (bianzhong) or modern jade carillons. It uses the five-note scale (pentatonic) which is omnipresent in Chinese music. The melody is one of Xiaodiao (“short melodies”), which is popular in Chinese urban areas.

This song also found its way into the opera: Giacomo Puccini used the melody in Turandot and made the song famous in the West. In 2008 the song was played during the medal ceremonies at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Under the title “Jasmine” an arrangement for wind orchestra by Simon Scheiwiller has been published by Adank (Switzerland). Scheiwiller is horn player, conductor and composer and studied at the conservatories of Zurich and Geneva. Already as a teenager he began arranging piano pieces or film music for wind ensembles. Scheiwiller mainly performs chamber music, played on the Reto Suhner Quartett’s CD “Äbä” and was solo horn player at the Opera Festival in Florence in 2008.

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