ENJOTT SCHNEIDER (b.1950): Changes for Sheng and Orchestra, Symphony No. 3 for Alto, Sheng and Orchestra "Chinese Seasons".
Catalogue Number: 02Q073
Reference: WER 5111 2
Description: Having found many good things to say about Schneider's ingenious Nachdichtungen after other composers [08Q074], it is a pleasure to report that these wholly original compositions are every bit as inventive and compelling. The composer has a long-standing relationship with Chinese music and musicians, which manifests here in a genuine meeting of cultures, rather than an uneasy 'crossover' idiom which is neither the one thing nor the other. Both works belong firmly in the European romantic tradition, with the giants of German late romanticism strongly present in the background; elements of Busonian and Sibelian harmony and turn of phrase may also be heard. Some modal harmony and bits of pentatonic melody, and occasional details of instrumentation are the only sugestions of traditional Chinese music - even the treatment of the solo instrument more frequently resembles the material given to accordions by contemporary composers of concerti for that family of instruments than that traditionally native to it, though its idiosyncracies of breath control and fingering are written for idiomatically and virtuosically. The concerto is related to aspects of the I Ching, and is structured along traditional lines. The first movement is vehement and dramatic, with a potent sense of forward motion; the second, mysterious and nocturnal, harmonically wayward, while the finale is an increasingly wild, bacchanalian dance, interrupted by an extended cadenza for the solo instrument, at first melodic, then increasingly propulsive with some suggestion of minimalist patterning, leading the way back into a high-velocity toccata for soloist and orchestra to conclude the work. The sheng is capable of some wonderfully incisive percussive staccato chord effects, but it also serves as a plaintive reedy melodic instrument of almost vocal expressiveness, accompanying its song with drones and chords. The symphony is a four-movement symphonic structure with thematically related movements depicting the seasons of the Chinese year, beginning with the overwhelming sensations of summer color, then the lugubrious loneliness of autumn, the frozen immobility of winter and the ecstatic rebirth of spring. Schneider sets texts from Hans Bethge's reworked Chinese poetry, often in a kind of duet with the sheng, and there are occasional sly nods to the most famous example of this collaboration across the centuries, Das Lied von der Erde. German texts. Vesselina Kasarova (alto), Wu Wei (sheng), Tonkünstler Orchestra; Xincao Li.