Divertissements Chinois

Divertissements Chinois:

Yeo Yat-Soon: harpsichord
Agnes Chin: guzheng
Philippa Hyde: soprano
William Summers: baroque flute/recorders
Diane Moore: baroque violin
Ibrahim Aziz: viola da gamba

Divertissements Chinois is recently formed group which explores the fascinating and rarely heard musical links between Europe and China in the 17th and 18th centuries. The ensemble takes its name from a collection of Chinese music transcribed by the French-born, Beijing-based Jesuit missionary Jean Joseph Marie Amiot in the 1770s. European Jesuits first settled in China with the arrival of Matteo Ricci to the Imperial Court in Beijing in 1601. Ricci's many gifts to the Wanli Emperor included a harpsichord. Half a century later, it was reported that the Kangxi Emperor had “harpsichords and spinets in great numbers in all his palaces”.

By the early 18th century early 18th century, the main conduits for cultural exchanges between China and Europe shifted from religion to commerce. A sustained period of peace and stability led to a huge increase in trade, especially between Great Britain and China. Throughout these first encounters between European and Chinese cultures, music was there as a witness. There are many sources of cultural cross-currents... with European musicians visiting China (some settling for good such as Teodorico Pedrini, whose Corelli-violin sonatas survive in a unique source in the Library of Peking University), a solitary mysterious Cantonese music-making merchant - Loum Kiqua (or 林 奇) -visiting London in the 1757 and a surprisingly rich tapestry of Chinese music being published in France and Britain.

Based on the research of harpsichordist Yeo Yat-Soon and others, the ensemble uses voice, baroque woodwind and stringed instruments, harpsichord and the Chinese guzheng to explore this fascinating world.

Divertissements Chinois were delighted to become Continuo Foundation Grantees in March 2023. Performances are planned for London (including the China Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the leading collections of Chinese art in the country, and the beautiful Palladian church of St Giles-in-the-Fields which dates from around the time much of this music was travelling across the continents) and in rural Suffolk.

Divertissement Chinois performances can be seen on the YouTube playlist below.

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