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Marc Rochester
Gramophone, March 2013

As the title implies, the Symphonic Poem is based on three notes…what makes this all so absorbing is the way in which Tan Dun uses a plethora of percussive and other effects…to propel the piece forward. Clearly the members of the Hong Kong Philharmonic are having a ball and the effect is often thrilling.

With the 35‑minute Concerto for Orchestra we encounter Tan in true concert mode…and, being inspired by the journeying of Marco Polo, it retains a distinctly programmatic flavour. More importantly, it gives us a chance to experience the splendid Hong Kong Philharmonic at its most assured. This is a vivid demonstration of true orchestral virtuosity, with Tan Dun’s experimental effects superbly realised, and all captured in fulsome sound… © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Olds
The WholeNote, February 2013

A recent Naxos release, Tan Dun—Concerto for Orchestra…includes two compositions from 2012, the title work and the Symphonic Poem on Three Notes, juxtaposed with 1990’s Orchestral Theatre performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer’s direction. This disc provides a welcome entrée into the concert music of the composer who came to international attention with the score to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Concerto, which employs material from Dun’s opera Marco Polo, is especially effective in its extended percussion cadenzas and its blending of vocalization with instrumental accents. With nods to Stravinsky, Bartók and LutosÅ‚awski while referencing his Asian heritage, this work is very effective. © 2013 The WholeNote Read complete review

Robert Benson, January 2013

This new Naxos CD offers three major works: Symphonic Poem on Three Notes (2012), Orchestral Theatre (1990) and Concerto for Orchestra (2012). The latter has an elaborate program detailed by the composer in his program notes, three “journeys” and adventures based generally on music for his opera Marco Polo. We can be sure we are hearing definitive performances with the composer conducting the fine Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra whose music director is the remarkable Dutchman Jaap van Zweden. The vivid sonics do justice to this unusual music. Thank you, Naxos! © 2013 Read complete review, November 2012

The music of Tan Dun tends to have more aural staying power. The earliest work on Naxos’ new CD, Orchestral Theatre…[includes] considerable amounts of folk music and the folk-music sound along with Western-style orchestration and forays into atonality. The other two works here are both new, written in 2012. Symphonic Poem on Three Notes has a fairly ordinary musical arc…but some intriguing aural effects, thanks to Tan’s well-known fondness for sonic sources not usually considered instrumental. In this case, he uses wind, stones and the brake drums of cars to contrast the natural world with the industrialized one. Concerto for Orchestra is a tribute of sorts to Marco Polo, its four movements recalling elements of his journey to the East while also trying to reflect his imagined spiritual progress: “Light of Timespace,” “Scent of Bazaar,” “The Raga of Desert” and “The Forbidden City.” It is “Raga,” the third and longest movement, that is most effective at scene-painting, but Tan manages to convey exoticism and the spirit of exploration throughout. He is also an effective interpreter of his own work, which the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra plays quite well. © 2012 Read complete review

Oliver Chou
Sunday Morning Post, November 2012

In Symphonic Poem on Three Notes, Tan shows off his mastery in developing from la-ti-do into a series of ingenious variations for full orchestra…the 2012 version fuses more exotic effects into the music, such as bells, chants and even stamping on the floor, all adding up to a great exciting soundscape…

Concerto for Orchestra in Four Movements…will please many hi-fi fans.

Orchestral Theatre (dated 1990) documents Tan at his folkish best…

All in all, a 2012 Grammy hopeful. © 2012 Sunday Morning Post

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2012

Tan Dun is one of today’s foremost experimentalist composers who remain working within the field of a conventional symphony orchestra. Two of the works have been completed within the present year, the disc opening with a seventieth birthday surprise for the tenor, Placido Domingo, commissioned by the Teatro Real Opera in Madrid. The notes with the disc will explain at length the reason behind the title Symphonic Poem on Three Notes, and its use of a theme based on the notes A, B, C, and why it uses extramusical sounds that include industrial brake drums and car wheels. Much of the piece is slow moving with the calls of birds, wind and rain, and adds vocal hip-hop, blowing sounds and stones. The Concerto for Orchestra also dates from this year, Tan Dun starting from the premise that the symphony orchestra is what the composer makes it, asking himself the question ‘what would the orchestra of the future sound like?’. I am not about to tell you of the outcome, as your response will mark out your thoughts. The work is in four movements each with a descriptive title and ending with his picture of The Forbidden City which the explorer, Marco Polo, was to discover. We go back over two decades for Orchestral Theatre, a work embracing tonality in the use of nature sounds, those effects eventually employing human voices in the orchestra. This is certainly the discs most readily attractive score, though it is still stretching music into new horizons. As for performances, these are in the hands of the composer who is here the conductor, and will act as the marker for those that follow. The Hong Kong orchestra certainly sound very assured, and the recording has outstanding definition. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, October 2012

There is something about the work of Chinese-American composer Tan Dun. There is gift for orchestration. Brilliant. And sound color.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic is well rehearsed and extremely sympatico with this music. These are state-of-the-art performances, certainly. And the music? All of it stands out. There is excellent use of percussion color and a masterfully original brilliance to the orchestral presence.

So on the “Symphonic Poems on Three Notes” we get all kinds of inventive twists and turns on a very simple three note motif. “Orchestral Theatre” is very dramatic and ritual-like, yet quite exceptional in its use of the orchestral palette.

The “Concerto for Orchestra” is in four movements, and in virtuostic fashion creates four vivid sound paintings…The music is based in part on Tan Dun’s opera Marco Polo, and manages to evoke skillfully and engagingly a journey to hitherto unknown lands in geographical and personal-experiential terms…

In the end we have some exceptional orchestral music, brilliantly performed. Tan Dun is a marvel. He shows himself, his music well to us on this enchanted disk. Hear this one, by all means! © 2012 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

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