HUANG, Ruo: Chamber Concertos Nos. 1-4 (International Contemporary Ensemble/ Lawson White) (Naxos: 8.559322)
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Huang Ruo (b. 1976)
Chamber Concerto Cycle (2000–2002)
The Italian word concerto means bringing together; traditionally, it has been used to describe works in which individual lines, instrumental or vocal, are assembled into a harmonious whole. My concerto cycle focuses not only on individual instruments but also combinations of instruments in dialogue, as well as the entire ensemble as a dramatic force. The cycle is linked both musically and theatrically. During each piece, musicians and conductor act with body motions, sing, chant, and speak. The first two concertos are both written for eight players with the same instrumentation; the third and fourth (for five and fifteen players respectively) complete a progression from divergence to confluence. My concertos represent the different stages and styles of my writing, and are a journal of my travels in the Eastern and Western worlds, looking also towards the future.
Yueh Fei: Concerto No. 1 is based on the epic story of an ancient folk hero and poet of the Song Dynasty named Yueh Fei (A.D. 1103-1141). One of his poems, "Man Jian Hong", was later set as a folk song which was sung in ancient China. I divided this song into several parts, and put them into different movements of the piece.
The Lost Garden: Concerto No. 2 paints an imaginary world, full of joy and sorrow. In this garden, one can find one's lost memories, or one can bury them; one can feel the wind and hear the birds' singing, knowing that these things will never sound the same again.
Divergence: Concerto No. 3 ends with the players reading an ancient poem, "Sheng Sheng Man" (Sounds Ever Slow), by Li Qing-Zhao, a woman poet of the Song Dynasty.
So chill and so clear,
Dreary, and dismal, and forlorn.
That time of year,
A warm spell—then it's back to cold,
Hard to find rest.
Two or three cups of weak wine—
How can they resist the biting wind
That comes with evening?
The wild geese pass—
That's what hurts most—
And yet, they're old acquaintances.
Chrysanthemum petals fill the ground in piles,
Haggard and damaged—
As they are now, who could bring herself to pick them?
At the window, alone—
How can I brace myself against the encroaching dark?
The plane tree, and on top of that the drizzling rain,
On until dusk,
The dripping drop after drop,
These things, this moment,
How can one word—"sorrow"—say it all?
Confluence: Concerto No. 4 is a summation and continuation of the musical ideas brought to life in the previous three works – a meeting point of chaotic dreams, pastoral landscapes, death, funerals, life, and dance.
The world première of the cycle was given by the International Contemporary Ensemble at the Miller Theatre of Columbia University on 8 February 2003.