Tan Dun | Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa
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Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra, written in 1999, is a reworking of music from one of his most popular works: Ghost Opera for pipa and string quartet (1994). The work was inspired by China’s 4000-year-old “Ghost Opera” tradition at Taoist funerals (which Tan experienced as a child), where shamans communicate with spirits from the past and future and establish dialogues between nature and the human soul. This dialogue, notes Tan, produces “a new counterpoint of different ages, different sound worlds and different cultures.”  In the end, these worldly spirits return to the eternal soil of the earth. Tan describes Ghost Opera as a reflection on human spirituality, which is too often buried by the bombardment of urban culture and technology. The same might be said of this Concerto.

Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra literally begins with a stomp. This initiates a pulsing incantation from the cellos that is picked up by the other strings. Momentum builds to a hair-raising glissando that seems to explode at its zenith. Surely we are in the realm of magic. Tan continues to pepper the score with colorful effects, including shouts of the word “Yao,” improvised sound masses, eerie harmonics from the strings, bent notes, rolls and slides. The work fairly throbs with energy. Only the third movement, Adagio, provides an island of calm. Even the final bars, where the pipa is accompanied by soft, sustained strings, seem loathe to relinquish the fiery spirit of this vibrant work.

–Christine Dahl, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

“The visual and the musical combined to evoke a sense of nostalgia for a lost world, contrasted with today’s mechanized, patterned life, with Gao Renyang the soloist on dizi (bamboo flute) and David Cossin the solo percussionist. All told, a beautiful and touching piece of work.”

–Michael Anthony, Star Tribune, Feb 10, 2002

Year

1999
Duration

20 Minutes
Instrumentation

solo: pipa
str (max. 14.12.10.10.8;min. 6.6.4.4.2)

Concerto for String Orchestra and
Zheng (1999) is also available with
the same instrumentation.
World Premiere

July 16, 1999
Pacific Music Festival
Sapporo, Japan
Pacifica Music Festival Orchestra
Tan Dun, conductor
Shao Rong, pipa
Other Major Performances

March 16, 2013
New York, NY
Little Orchestra Society
Min Xiao-Fen, pipa
David Allen Miller, conductor

November 10, 11, 2012
Little Rock, Arkansas
Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Wu Man, pipa

August 13, 2012
Berlin, Germany
Tan Dun, conductor

August 22, 2011
Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne Festival
Tan Dun, conductor

June 16, 2011
Montreal, Canada
Montreal Chamber Orchestra
Wanda Kaluzny, conductor

May 27, 2011
Frauenkirche, Dresden
Deutsche Radio Philharmonic & Hilliard Ensemble
Christoph Poppen, conductor

March 1, 2010
Brussels, Belgium
Charlemagne Orchestra for Europe

April 2-4, 2009
Munich, Germany
Munich Philharmonic
Tan Dun, conductor
Shao Rong, pipa
Lang Lang, piano

March 12, 2009
Montreal, Quebec Canada
Montreal Chamber Orchestra
Wanda Kaluzny, conductor

February 10, 2008
Windsor, Ontario Canada
Windsor Symphony Orchestra
John Morris Russell, conductor
More Info
For booking inquiries please contact info@tandunoffice.com