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James Manheim
AllMusic.com, August 2017

Chinese-born American composer Bright Sheng, based in Michigan, devises structures that are deep fusions of Chinese and Western idioms, and has even gone so far as to say that he is 100 percent Chinese and 100 percent Western. He often uses Chinese folk melodies of various kinds in his compositions, integrating them with Western textures and structures, but he has rarely taken a Western folk tradition as the starting point as he does here in the title work, Northern Lights, for cello and piano. …Sheng makes the cello stand in for this instrument at several junctures, using various techniques… The other works, all recent chamber pieces by Sheng are equally interesting. Two of them involve a marimba, an instrument that is neither Chinese nor Western and that fits nicely with Sheng’s use of timbre as a structural element. © 2017 AllMusic.com Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2017

Bright Sheng was born in Shanghai in 1955, but moved to New York in 1982 where he continued his studies in composition and conducting with Leonard Bernstein. He is a composer who is obviously fascinated by sounds and wishes to communicate those to the listener in a way that at times challenges our thoughts on traditional classical composition. So we have to come to terms with Northern Lights, which he informs us is a work for cello and piano based on Scandinavian folk music. That might come as a surprise to those who know that genesis. What we do have is a mix of melody and atonality, the third movement basically a song for cello, while the finale is akin to a swarm of bees in a hectic dance of death. When he moves back to his Chinese influences in Melodies of a Flute, we also enter the seductive world of Hollywood romance in the opening Flute and Phoenix, followed by a brilliant display of marimba virtuosity in Lotus Flowers. From 1990, the Four Movements for Piano Trio returns him to Asia and to his homeland, the joyful second movement a delightful folk song from Si-Chaun area of China, a region particularly in our thoughts today in the dreadful mudslide that has devastated it. Finally, a sense of lonesomeness that those scenes have just generated. Sweet May Again lifts the gloom in a jazzy solo for double-bass with piano accompaniment. Finally a two movement duet for violin and marimba, Hot Pepper, the music at times coming close to an American hoedown. A catalogue of performers take part, Pius Cheung’s brilliant marimba, and the violinist, Dan Zhu, calling for a special mention, while the composer is the pianist in his Piano Trio. Reliable close-up sound quality. © 2017 David’s Review Corner





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