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Bright Sheng

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Dance Capriccio (2011)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Mixed Ensemble
Year Composed
12 Minutes
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Programme Note
Bright Sheng Dance Capriccio (2011)
Composer Note:
Dance Capriccio is commissioned by the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation in honor of Lois Beznos, the President of the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. The work is written for Peter Serkin and the Shanghai String Quartet who premiered the work on February 11, 2012, at the Seligman Performing Arts Center in Detroit. It is approximately twelve minutes in length.

Dance Capriccio is inspired by the dance folk music of Sharpa, a small ethnic group (population ca. 150,000) mostly living in western Nepal, in the high mountains of the Himalayas. In Tibetan language, Sharpa means "people of the east," as it is believed Sharpa moved from eastern Tibet to their current site centuries ago. Sharpas are regarded as excellent mountaineers and guides for the expeditions of the Himalayas, especially the Everest.

Sharpa language is essentially an atypical dialect of Tibetan. The same phenomenon is reflected in Sharpa folk music which is similar to Tibetan but with its distinctive characters and twists of melodic turns. Like the Tibetans, Sharpa people love to dance and, along with love songs and drinking songs, dance music is an important genre among Sharpa folk music.

In Dance Capriccio, I try to capture the various characters of Sharpa dance, from slow to fast, tender to raucous even wild.

This work is dedicated to Maxine and Stuart Frankel, my dear friends, and passionate patrons and promoters for arts and art education.

— Bright Sheng

Sample Pages

Sheng spent seven years studying the folk culture of the Tibetan borderlands during the Cultural Revolution before entering the Shanghai Conservatory and uprooting to the U.S., where he now teaches composition at the University of Michigan. The spirit of that research continues to inform his work, and the deft shuttling of western Nepalese Sherpa idioms through a loom of classical counterparts in the “Dance Capriccio” is no exception. Yet, rather than oversimplify his craft as a fusion of East and West, as much press on Sheng is wont to do, we should take this newly commissioned piece on its own terms. The spectral qualities of its awakening were clear from note one; its eddies of ink and time were as brooding as they were animated. This brief glimpse into the lives of an ethnic group rarely known for anything beyond mountaineering was a treat for jaded ears. The layering of rhythmic signatures, combined with challenging octave splits from Serkin, made for rich tonal brocade and many translucent, if not also transcendent, passages.
Tyran Grillo, The Cornell Daily Sun,12/11/2012
Sheng's "Dance Capriccio" has its roots in the folk music of the Sherpa, the ethnic people of Nepal, whose music Sheng came into contact with during his time in the provinces. The piece, commissioned by philanthropists Maxine and Stuart Frankel in honor of past Chamber Music Society president Lois Beznos, made a strong impression Saturday. Cast in a single, richly concentrated movement of about 12 minutes, it is not Sheng's most formally ambitious piece, but it is loaded with inspired ideas and drama and it commands attention from beginning to end. The music swings between serenely lyrical, lullaby-like passages and highly rhythmic, fiercely articulated melodic lines that slice the air with wild abandon, leaving the outline of a bacchanal. You get the feeling that the Sherpa really know how to party. Sheng treats the piano and string quartet as equals, an impression furthered by the deeply integrated virtuoso performance.
Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press,13/02/2012
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