The solo piano part is available from Classical on Demand.

  • 2(2pic).22(Ebcl).2/4230/timp.3perc/str
  • Piano
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

This work was inspired and influenced by the music from the Silk Road culture. For thousands of years the caravans of the Silk Road had made voyages through the ancient trading route linking the two greatest civilizations of the time between China and Rome. More importantly, the Silk Road had opened up an enormous cultural and religious exchange among the countries between Asia and Europe.

It was not an accident that the Silk Road began in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) and reached its zenith during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), the two longest and most highly artistic and prosperous dynasties in Chinese history. Unlike the history of European cultures, early Chinese civilization largely developed independently from the rest of the world. Thus throughout history, many rulers believed the importance for China to stay away from "foreign influences." The emperors from the Han and Tang dynasties were notable exceptions.

They were confident enough to allow other cultures to infiltrate into their own. Chang’an (now Xi’an, a northwestern city in China where the Terra Cotta Soldiers were unearthed), the capital of both dynasties, was the departure point and final destination of the Silk Road. By 742, the size of the city was five by six miles with a population of two million, including over 5,000 foreigners. Numerous religions and cultures were represented and the city contained the temples, churches, and synagogues of Nestorians, Manicheans, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians, among others. Foreigners from Turkey, Iran, Arabia, Sogdia, Mongolia, Armenia, India, Korea, Malaya, and Japan regularly lived in Chang’an.

As a result, Chinese culture was greatly enriched. In music, for example, of the ten genres of Chinese music the Tang court catalogued, only two were genuine Chinese (one traditional and one contemporary). The rest of them were all from other cultures: Persian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, and Tibetan, to name just a few. And influences from other countries are still evident in Chinese music today, especially in the folk and operatic music of the northwestern provinces where the Silk Road culture had been rich. Distinct from the rest of China, the music there is not pentatonic and its unique melodic configurations can be traced back to the music of Tibet, Mongolia, central Asia and Iran.

—Bright Sheng