ClassicsOnline Home » SHENG, Bright: Phoenix (The) / Red Silk Dance / Tibetan Swing / H'un (Lacerations) (Sheng, Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) > Review List

SHENG, Bright: Phoenix (The) / Red Silk Dance / Tibetan Swing / H'un (Lacerations) (Sheng, Seattle Symphony, Schwarz)

Composer(s):Sheng, Bright
Period(s) Contemporary
Genre Classical Music
Category OrchestralVocal
Catalogue 8.559610
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps

The Phoenix, co-commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and Danish National Symphony Orchestra, was inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen tale, the mythical bird symbolizing for Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng “the muse of all peoples.” Aggressive fervor seeks meditative peace in H’un: In memoriam 1966–1976, hailed by The New YorkTimes as “a searing portrait of the Cultural Revolution in China…deeply affecting.” Sheng’s exquisite Spring Dreams, Three Fantasias and Tibetan Dance are available on Naxos 8.570601. China Dreams and Nanking Nanking can be heard on Naxos 8.555866.


Review By Steve Schwartz,,July 2010

China and chinoiserie. The work of Bright Sheng, a survivor of and refugee from Mao’s Cultural Revolution, has usually focused on the synthesis of Chinese or Tibetan culture with that of Europe. Possessed of a tremendous talent that sometimes crosses over into brilliance, he is also terrifically uneven. Unlike his fellow expatriate Tan Dun, he has a sharp dramatic sense, an instinct for sure progression and climax. I would almost call him the Chinese Leonard Bernstein, in regard to his compositions. He has a feel for the vitality of “low” material and a love of strong rhythm and orchestral color. This music doesn’t try to get you to blend your consciousness with placid surroundings. It wants you to feel…the first work to bring Sheng to general

Tibetan Swing and Red Silk Dance both share Tibetan dance as their inspiration. Tibetan Swing intrigued me just by reading the title. However, it has nothing to do with Duke Ellington. It refers to Tibetan dancers who swoop up their long sleeves from the ground to overhead. Tibetan music is often heavily rhythmic and the steps involve stamping. Both pieces successfully blend Asian and Western elements—the strong beats and emphasis on melody of Tibetan music and a vigorous, electrifyingly rough counterpoint from the West. At times, the music reminded me of early Stravinsky, although much more stark. Both pieces hammer at you and provide respite with long, serene passages, before ramping up again. For me, Red Silk Dance edges out Tibetan Swing, but preferring one to the other seems a mug’s game. Both have a great chance of becoming classic works.

Schwarz and his Seattlonians do their usual good work. Everything is clear. The loud parts have a great deal of energy. If Schwarz has a flaw, it’s his inability to make much of reflective passmore....

Review By David Denton, Naxos,March 2009

Composition studies concluding with Leonard Bernstein, the Shanghai-born Bright Sheng combines the sounds of his birth place with Western-style music. As a young man he had been banished in China’s Cultural Revolution to a distant rural location, but was fortunate in finding he could continue playing the piano while discovering the use of traditional Chinese instruments. His life in North America has proved highly successful with commissions from many of the major orchestras, the two cultures combining in an impressive catalogue of compositions. One of those came for a works to mark the 2003 Centenary of the Seattle Symphony, Sheng offering an extended work for soprano and orchestra to words of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Bird Phoenix, and in



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