MASTERWORKS CONCERT: "Along the Silk Road"

Saturday, November15 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 16 at 2:00 pm
NDSU Festival Concert Hall

Tan DunDragon and Phoenix Overture

Bright Sheng - The Three Gorges of the Long River from "China Dreams"

Charles T. Griffes - The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

This musical tour of the East spans works of Chinese contemporary composers Tan Dun and Bright Sheng, an example of Impressionism by American composer Charles T. Griffes, to one of the more colorful staples of orchestral repertoire from the late Romatic period, "Scheherazade" by Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. You are in for an exotic and sumptuous treat!

Composer Tan Dun (b. 1957) was born in a village in China and, because music was discouraged during Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution, was sent to work in the rice fields. He eventually made his way into the study of both Chinese and Western music, earning his doctorate in the US at Columbia University. The "Dragon and Phoenix Overture" is from Tan Dun’s symphony Heaven Earth Mankind, which was commissioned for a historic event in East West relations: the moment when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty. The overture is taken from the first section of the three-part symphony, opening with big foghorn blasts that turn into silvery fanfares and bright pulsing melodies. In the overture, a solo cello (played by Yo-Yo Ma at the premiere) represents the Phoenix— the yin to the Dragon’s yang.

Bright Sheng (B. 1955), a leading Chinese-American composer now on the faculty of the University of Michigan, embarked in 2000 on a Silk Road cultural journey (Sheng also served as the artistic advisor for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project from 1998 to 2003). During the two-month trip, Sheng followed the path of Zhang Qian, the first Chinese traveler in 138 BC, on the Silk Road in northwest China and collected traditional, folk music and sound samples. In 2008, Bright Sheng continued the Silk Road project, a field research trip traveling through part of the southern route of the Silk Road, including Vietnam and southern China. "The Three Gorges of the Long River" is from a larger work titled "China Dreams." The composer notes,

"...The final movement, The Three Gorges of the Long River (also known as the Yangtze River), [is] lyrical and atmospheric; its themes have the folk flavor of the northwest region of China. The title China Dreams has two meanings. First, while I was writing this music, I realized that I was very homesick for China, which I had not seen since I left there in 1982. So in a sense it is the music that I as an émigré had to write. Secondly, the first half of the last movement [The Three Gorges of the Long River] came to me in a dream, and although I usually find that the music I hear in my dreams does not stand up well the next day, this proved to have more staying power."

Charles T. Griffes (1884-1920), an American Impressionist composer often compared to Debussy and Ravel, based his lush and dreamy tone poem, "The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan," on the Coleridge poem of the same name.

"Scheherazade" by Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) tells the "One Thousand and one Nights" (aka "Arabian Nights") story in vivid, colorful, and exotic detail. Check out conductor Marin Alsop's description of the piece (with sound clips) in this NPR story. You can certainly "hear" the cruel sultan in the opening chords and the enchanting stories Scheherazade spins night after night, always ending in a cliffhanger, to spare her life. The solo violin is the voice of the beautiful and inventive you suppose our concertmaster Ben Sung will dress in an Arabian princess outfit to tell the stories?



Advance tickets are $25 - $35 for Adults and $10 - $15 for Students (including college), available here and 701-478-3676. $5 STUDENT RUSH tickets (with student ID) are available at the door one hour before each performance.








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The 2014 Symphony Rocks "HOT HOT HOT!" concert event on August 14 was a big hit - check out photos on the Gallery Page.