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David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2016

Born in Southern China in 1958, Deqing Wen has spent time in the United States and in Europe, particularly in Switzerland where he has gained a number of awards. Prolific in this output of new works, he is seen as one who is leading a generation taking Chinese music into the 21st century. Though influenced by Western symphonic sounds, he relates in his programme notes that his works have been inspired by Chinese music. From my part of the world, whether or not he recognises it, the first part of his Shanghai Prelude—a Concerto for Cello and Orchestra—has more than a passing reference to the folk music of Scotland. Though it is in no way a virtuoso concerto, it is one of extreme difficulties, the orchestra often almost swallowing the soloist into their midst. It was completed in 2015, two years after The Fantasia of Peony Pavillion, a work taking its name from a Chinese story of characters who were rebels against traditional feudal ethics, and here expressed in a suitably violent language that is far away from the musical values of yesteryear. It must be very challenging on the conductor and orchestra, the complex strands, that are often fast moving, creating a complicated and often noisy texture. Variation of a Rose is a score composed in sadness, as Wen discloses in the booklet, and it is a welcome and quiet foil to the previous track. Written two years ago, Nostalgia covers many of the thoughts of the Variation, its gentle and translucent textures continuing into the final Love Song and River Chant. I am not going to pretend this is easy music to hear for the first time, but I value it as an important contribution to Contemporary music. These are all world premieres, and I guess the Vienna studio recordings took a considerable preparation time. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

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