• 3(2pic).3(ca).3(Ebcl,bcl).3(cbn)/4331/timp.4perc/hp.pf/str
  • Pipa
  • 28 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

In December 1937, in what was then the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres occurred in the long annals of wartime barbarity. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking (Nanjing), and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city, but systematically raped, tortured, and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocity, one of the worst in history, continues to be little known by the public.

This work is written in memory of the victims. It is not a recreation of the massacre. For someone who did not live through this horrifying episode, the story exists only in the realm of the author's imagination. In Nanking! Nanking! I try to tell the story through the 'eyes' of one person (the pi-pa [a lute with four silk strings that was brought to China from Persia along the Silk Road]), who is not only a victim, but a witness and a survivor.

But it is also a story of humanity's spirit, of the people in Nanking who endured and survived the cruel violence when the government was incapable of defending its own citizens. There were also heroes during those dark pages in history: a handful of Westerners (including a businessman from Hamburg) who risked their lives in order to save Nanking civilians. Ultimately, it is humanity that triumphs.

—Bright Sheng


Nanking! Nanking! A Threnody for Orchestra and Pipa