A study of two selected chamber works for piano and violin by Bright Sheng: A Night at the Chinese Opera and Three Fantasies

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Our world has become smaller due to globalization and frequent cultural exchange between different countries. As a result, classical music is becoming increasingly global. There are a significant number of

Our world has become smaller due to globalization and frequent cultural exchange between different countries. As a result, classical music is becoming increasingly global. There are a significant number of Chinese composers, including Tan Dun, Chen Yi, Zhou Long, and Bright Sheng, who have gained international attention. For a modern performer, familiarity with music outside of the Western canon is increasingly important.

Bright Sheng is an internationally renowned Chinese-American composer who blends the heritage of traditional Chinese musical elements, traditional instruments, Chinese Opera and folk melodies with Western musical techniques. He infuses Chinese character into his works and introduces Chinese music to the Western classical music world.

In this paper, I discuss two of Bright Sheng’s pieces: A Night at the Chinese Opera and Three Fantasies. Both works were composed in 2005 and are the only two compositions he wrote for violin and piano. Most pianists are not familiar with how to transfer or imitate the sounds of traditional Chinese instruments on Western musical instruments. The paper examines traditional Chinese techniques for Western instruments from A Night in Chinese Opera. Three Fantasies contains three distinct musical characters related to different musical elements from different regions of China. I explore the traditional musical forms from Three Fantasies and offer practical suggestions for performance practice.

This document provides Bright Sheng’s biography, educational background, influences, and compositional style. It also features the inspirations for both pieces, a detailed analysis of both scores including a structural outline, discussion of compositional style, usage of rhythm and timbre and explanation of special techniques. This document also serves as an interpretative guide to each composition, including story outlines, suggestions for practice strategies, aesthetic considerations, rehearsal techniques and performance considerations.

The research for this paper is based on personal interview and coaching with Bright Sheng and analysis from the published scores for A Night at the Chinese Opera and Three Fantasies by G. Schirmer, Inc. I hope that this document will be a comprehensive performers’ guide to both works and serve as an explanation and promotion of Chinese classical music to a larger audience.