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Bright Sheng

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Spring Dreams for Violoncello and Traditional Chinese Orchestra (1997)
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
25 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Bright Sheng Spring Dreams for Violoncello and Traditional Chinese Orchestra (1997)
Composer Note:

In traditional Chinese music, almost without exception, a composition is decorated with a descriptive title. In addition, different sections within one work (even when played without interruption) are often given different names. These titles, though not necessarily programmatic, usually suggest and evoke the essential character and nature of a work, and traditionally they benefit all three groups of people participating in a composition: the composer, the performer, and the listener. While the advantages for a listener might be obvious, a title also typically serves as a fountainhead for the composer’s imagination (whether it was given before, during, or after the completion of the work) and as a point of departure for the recreation by the performer, frequently the composer.

The word chun (spring) in classical Chinese also has strong connotations of lust and sensual love.

The first movement, Midnight Bells, is in part inspired by some of the lines in a Tang Dynasty poem:

…And, from afar, of the temples
in the Chilly Mountains
The sound of the midnight bells
sings over the arriving boat.
— Chang Ji (?-780)

Spring Dreams was commissioned for Yo-Yo Ma and the National Traditional Orchestra of China by The Carnegie Hall Corporation. The premiere performance was given at Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts on February 19, 1997, and the New York premiere is tonight here at Carnegie Hall. It is dedicated to Yo-Yo Ma.

— Bright Sheng

Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and composed for Yo-Yo Ma, Spring Dreams is a work of real substance. Having grown up with the sounds of this orchestra's traditional instruments in his ears, Sheng respects their musical integrity, but he also finds intriguing new uses for them. The colors and sounds are no longer merely exotic special effects but are deftly blended to become an organic part of the musical argument. Erhus vibrate warmly and eloquently as delicately plucked pipas, bamboo flutes, and dashes of percussion swirl through the textures and add their own poetic commentary. Future Chinese composers should take this gorgeous score as a role model.
Peter Davis, New York Magazine,1/1/0001
Worcester was the capital of the musical world, the birthplace of the unusual masterpiece, [with] Bright Sheng's Spring Dreams, which may be his crowning achievement to date. It is an eloquent tribute to the truest musical culture of his native country. Spring Dreams is in two substantial movements, "Midnight Bells" and "Spring Opera." The point of departure for "Midnight Bells," long, slow, and atmospheric, is some lines in a Tang Dynasty poem. Spring Dreams is a kind of scherzo, as life-affirming as Beethoven's are. The music is both excitable and rapturous. The timbres of the piece are Chinese, and the melodies are Chinese in character; the formal design, rhythmic complexity, and harmonic language bridge two musical cultures, as does the cello part, which takes on colorations from the Chinese instruments as it responds to them. Sheng's ear is experienced, precise, imaginative, and pristine in its sense of wonder.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,1/1/0001
[It was] the world premiere of Chinese composer Bright Sheng's "Spring Dreams," a concerto for violoncello and orchestra, which dramatically blends the sounds of East and West. Ma's cello and his body were tremendously expressive in this piece [of] fire bells, Chinese tom-tom, Beijing Opera gongs and cymbals [all] combining to give a cacophonous carillon effect.
Patty Tackaberry, The Herald (Seattle),1/1/0001
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