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Bright Sheng

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Postcards (1997)
G Schirmer Inc
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Purchase CD
Programme Note
Bright Sheng Postcards (1997)
Composer note:

In 1997, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra approached me with a commission offer. I was told that I was selected from among a pool of ten composers. The commissioners Ruth and John Huss (who are orchestra patrons) chose me to write a work in celebration of their silver wedding anniversary.

I subsequently had a lovely conversation with the Husses. They told me that they chose me because my music reminded them of their wonderful trip to China that they had taken a few years earlier.

So I thought a selection of musical postcards from various places in China would be appropriate for the occasion. Thus, I based each of these four short movements on a folk music style from different regions in China.

Postcards was premiered on 22 January 1998 by Hugh Wolff and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and is dedicated to Ruth and John Huss.

— Bright Sheng

  • Ensemble
    Singapore Symphony Orchestra
    Lan Shui
  • 23 MAY 2017
    ACO Parables
    Symphony Space, New York, NY
    American Composers Orchestra
    Sharon Isbin, guitar; Rossen Milanov, conductor
  • 13 MAR 2013
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Ann Arbor Symphony
    Arie Lipsky, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17 March - Ann Arbor, MI
  • 21 MAR 2012
    Buffalo, NY
    Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
    Matthew Kraemer, conductor
  • 25 FEB 2012
    New York, NY
    Queer Urban Orchestra
    Nolan Dresden, conductor
  • 11 FEB 2012
    San Francisco, CA
    San Francisco Symphony
    Carolyn Kuan, conductor
  • 15 NOV 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    Atlanta Symphony
    Jere Flint, conductor
  • 16 APR 2011
    Adrian, MI
    Adrian Symphony Orchestra
    Bright Sheng, conductor
  • 16 APR 2011
    Adrian, MI
    Adrian Symphony Orchestra
    John Dodson, conductor
  • 29 JAN 2011
    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand Symphoyn Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    3 February - Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 07 NOV 2009
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Calvin College And Seminary Orchestra
    Robert Nording, conductor
  • 29 OCT 2009
    Richmond, VA
    Richmond Symphony
    Erin Freeman, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11 March 2010 - Richmond, VA
  • 10 MAY 2009
    Idyllwild, CA
    Idyllwild Arts Academy
    Peter Askim, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11 May - Idyllwild, CA
  • 08 MAY 2009
    Richmond, VA
    Richmond Symphony
    Erin Freeman, conductor

    Other Dates:
    10 May - Richmond, VA
  • 25 APR 2008
    Stanford, CA
    Stanford University
    Martin Fraile, conductor
  • 20 MAR 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
    Mark Russell Smith, conductor

    Other Dates:
    22 March - St. Paul, MN
  • 13 FEB 2008
    Atlanta, GA
    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
    Meh-Ann Chen, conductor
  • 18 FEB 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
    Mei Ann Chen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    6,17 October; 20 November; 4,14 December; 12,13 February 2008 - Atlanta, GA
    10 October - Atlanta, GA

Sheng composed his four Postcards for Wolff and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra...They are glimpses of diverse landscapes translated first into music and then transcribed for the Western symphony orchestra, which filtered through Sheng's ear and his craftsmanlike hands, can sound like an authentic Chinese ensemble. "From the Mountains" and "From the Savage Land" made a strong contrast — the one slow and primarily melodic and coloristic in interest, the other fast and primarily rhythmic and coloristic. It made one eager to hear the whole set.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,01/01/0001
Sheng's Postcards quoted folk songs and folk music [with] accompanying imitation of the sound of folk instruments. [This] stood out as a major factor of the work. The concreteness of that sound left a strong impression. [The] composer makes use of the Western orchestra as [his] tool and yet there is the tenacious will to bring Western instruments closer to their folklore. The resulting music is more concrete than abstract...[perhaps] closer to a description of landscape. It creates an atmosphere in which we feel face to face with nature.
Hikaru Hayashi, Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo),01/01/0001
The Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng has become famous for mixing Asian and Western idioms, and he does it here with great success. Postcards has moments of violent depictions of the brutalities of China's Cultural Revolution, which Sheng experienced as a child. A brief theme stated at the beginning is re-worked again and again, the tension building to a clangorous climax. The other three movements, in what Sheng conceives as a set of postcards from China, are lighter and more gentle in tone. A simple folk tune is developed in the first movement, "From the Mountains." The tune begins to slide off-pitch with each re-statement, as if the tune were gradually spreading out in all directions, like water on a table. The second, "From the River Valley," based on a song from Southwest China, is fast and cheerful. It sounds like urban traffic. The title of the finale, "Wish You Were Here," suggests its tone: loneliness and nostalgia. Postcards is an evocative score and, like all his work, beautifully orchestrated. [Sheng] is someone to watch.
Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star & Tribune,01/01/0001
Without visual images, Bright Sheng painted a vivid travelogue in his Postcards, four miniatures using Chinese melodies woven in a tonal setting. Solidly led by Chen Xieyang, the players strove to emulate traditional Chinese timbres with their Western orchestral instruments.
Gail Wein, Washington Post,01/01/0001
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