The Emperor’s Harpsichord: After the Legacy of Diego de Pantoja

Publication date:2 February, 2019


The Emperor's Harpsichord brings together Todos los Tonos y Ayres, the first Spanish ensemble to specialize in the research and interpretation of early Chinese music, as well as in the musical relationship between imperial China and the Western world; and Íliber Ensemble, a Baroque chamber group using period instruments and historical performance practice. In this concert, Western and Chinese period instruments join together to rebuild the cheerful musical life of the Chinese court in a tribute to Diego de Pantoja.

This program commemorates the fourth centenary of the death of this Spanish Jesuit, who traveled to China and was a forefather in the establishment of cultural relationships with the Court of the Wanli Emperor. In addition to providing accurate data about China to Europe, he brought the first keyboard instrument to the Forbidden City, teaching the art of the clavichord in the imperial court. From then on, the rooms of the palace housed many Western instruments such as clavichords, organs or harpsichords.

It was precisely Diego de Pantoja who laid the foundations of the extraordinary mélanges of the Court, where Western, Chinese, Manchu or Mongolian music were performed and often mixed according to the liking of the Emperor.

The program features the music of Diego de Pantoja’s time, from his years of study in Spain to his training stay in Macao, then finally arriving with him in Beijing. From there, it explores the musical legacy of nearly two centuries of cultural exchange in the Chinese court until the end of the 18th century. All this thanks to this Spanish missionary, the first Westerner--along with Matteo Ricci--responsible for drawing back the veil of the Forbidden City.

The program was presented in a May-June 2018 China Tour in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Diego de Pantoja (1571-1618) and the 45th anniv. of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Spain organized by the Instituto Cervantes, Biblioteca Miguel de Cervantes of Shanghai and the Embassy of Spain in Beijing.


Dossier and program (link)

Todos los Tonos y Ayres:

Rubén García Benito: erhu 二胡, dizi 笛子, xiao 箫, sheng 笙, xun 埙, recorder, khoomei
Abigaíl R. Horro: guzheng 古筝, matouqin 马头琴, harp, recorder, voice

Íliber ensemble:

Darío Tamayo: harpsichord
María del Mar Blasco: baroque violin
Javier Utrabo: violone
Luis Vives: percussion
Aníbal Soriano: plucked strings, recorder