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Bright Sheng

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Three Chinese Love Songs (1988)
Text Writer
(Chin) Wang Wei, Tu Fu, Lu Xun
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
10 Minutes
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Programme Note
Bright Sheng Three Chinese Love Songs (1988)
Composer Note:

Three Chinese Love Songs (Dedicated to Leonard Bernstein) was requested by Mr. Seiji Ozawa as part of the commissioned works for the celebration of Mr. Bernstein’s 70th birthday at Tanglewood in August 1989. Prior to this I had just finished a large orchestral work for the New York Chamber Symphony: H’UN (Lacerations): In Memoriam 1966-1976, a work about the "Cultural Revolution" in China, of which I am a survivor and witness. This orchestral work was built on the intervals of minor seconds without any kind of melody or tune. Since it is about that tragic period in China, the work sounded harsh and dissonant. In this piece I felt I had achieved drama and expressiveness through dissonance.

At the same time, the inevitable call for the search of tonality in my writing, though not necessarily in the sense of triads, also was increasing daily. I needed to write something quite different. Therefore I was excited about the Tanglewood commission, an opportunity which enabled me to fulfill that need and to explore the other side of my writing. In that regard, setting Chinese folk songs is simply natural and appropriate.

This song cycle premiered August 26th, 1988 in a program entitled "Tributes to Song in Leonard Bernstein" at Tanglewood. The performers on that occasion were soprano Lisa Saffer, violist Burton Fine and pianist Yehudi Wyner.

—Bright Sheng

  • Ensemble
    New York Chamber Symphony
    Lisa Saffer, soprano; Paul Neubauer, viola; Bright Sheng, piano
    Gerard Schwarz
    New World Records:
  • Soloist(s)
    Rebecca Karpoff, Fred Karpoff
    Renegade Classics:
The Seattle premiere of Three Chinese Love Songs for Soprano, Viola and Piano (1988) by Bright Sheng added a piquantly exotic element to the evening’s program. Composer-in-Residence with the Seattle Symphony, Sheng has invested his music with a disarming simplicity, while achieving a notable fusion of Eastern and Western idioms. Convincingly performed by soprano Susan Roberts, violist Susan Gulkis and pianist Patricia Michaelian, the songs displayed the charming flavor of Chinese folk music while maintaining a spare, contemporary dissonance in their instrumental accompaniment.
Cary Smith, Journal American,24/08/1993
The evening’s high point lay… in the set "Chinese Love Songs," by the Shanghai-born Bright Sheng, marvelously sung by Saffer with wondrously poetic collaboration by violist John Hayhurst and with the composer proudly officiating at the piano. …These songs are stupendously beautiful, simple and open in their texture, fascinating in their blending of supple, insinuating melodic lines. There is a major talent here.
Alan Rich, Daily News,17/04/1991
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