This Fall Tan Dun presents 2 major world premieres. On September 6 at the Grafenegg Music Festival in Austria, Tan Dun conducts soloists David Cossin, Haruka Fuji, Wang Bei Bei, and Zhang Meng in his Earth Concerto for ceramic instruments and orchestra, commissioned by the Musik-Festival Grafenegg for the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich. On October 26 at Alice Tully Hall, Cho-Liang Lin and The Juilliard Orchestra, led by Tan Dun, perform the composer's Violin Concerto, The Love, commissioned by The Juilliard School and the Singapore Symphony.
Tan Dun © Nan Watanabe
In Earth Concerto, Tan Dun pays homage to one of the influential voices in classical music: Gustav Mahler. Mahler, in his Das Lied von der Erde, finds muse in 7 ancient Chinese poems and their vision of Earthly beauty and the transience of life. Tan Dun finds inspiration in three of the work's movements, seeing the profound beauty in the depths of the text and Mahler's obvious admiration for their perspective.
This latest concerto is the third piece in Tan Dun's Organic Music Series (preceded by the concertos for paper and water). Scored for orchestra and 99 ceramic and stone instruments it explores the timbres of the natural world with several custom-made instruments designed by the composer. Using stone chimes and pots, ceramic drums and flutes (like the Chinese Xun) to express his passion for the rhythmic and lyrical power of nature, the Earth Concerto evokes a driving, emotional and fragile musical world. Tan Dun comments, "I have always had the belief that Earth, like all other natural elements, holds deep a spirit and speaks with a language all its own — singing and vibrating alongside all beings. As the oldest Chinese wisdom states: humans plus nature always equals one. In harmony with this philosophy, I use the sounds of earth and stone instruments to symbolize the connection of the heavens and earth with the orchestra representing the human beings."
His Violin Concerto The Love, follows on the heels of 2008's Piano Concerto, The Fire. Each movement of the Violin Concerto focuses on different memories, life experiences and impressions. The first movement, about teenage love, incorporates hip-hop and rock & roll beats, the second movement recalls an ideal dream love and the third movement represents so-called sophisticated love. Violinist Cho-Liang Lin comments on the concerto and his long relationship with Tan Dun:
To play Tan Dun's concerto, I have to throw myself completely into the work and his world. Tan's music is extremely expressive and powerful. I feel I need to loosen the usual interpretive perimeters of classical music performance and try to become an actor on stage and speak to the audience using the unique language of Tan Dun. It's a liberating and rewarding experience.
I have known Tan Dun for a long time and think of him as a dear friend. I have also performed a number of his major works. I have gotten to know a great deal about how to perform his works from my many hours spent with Tan. I also have learned to let my violin speak with all sorts of different sounds as required by Tan's music, and to do so while letting go of any musical inhibitions. To be with Tan Dun is to let ideas fly, watch them scatter and then regroup in ever changing and evolving forms. Life is never dull around him.
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