Percussion Concerto

Chen Yi

Duration: 00:20:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Commissioned by Evelyn Glennie and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in 1998, the Percussion Concerto for percussion and full orchestra was premiered on March 8th, 1999 in Singapore, and dedicated to Ms. Glennie, the SSO and its Music Director Lan Shui. Deeply inspired by the arts of Beijing Opera, the concerto consists of three movements: I. The Night Deepens; II. Prelude to Water Tune; III. Speedy Wind.

The inspiration for the first movement comes from the traditional Beijing Opera tune ?The Night Deepens? from the opera ?Farewell to my Concubine,? which was used the scene of the Sword Dance featuring the Chinese dagu (big drum). In the concerto, the dagu is led in by the gloomy tam-tam and big gongs that mysteriously open the piece. When the full orchestra joins in, the dagu is beaten at the center and the rim of the membrane and rolled around the wooden edge, in typical Chinese performing style.

The second movement is a realization of a poem ?Prelude to Water Tune? by Su Shi (1036-1101), on the exaggerated reciting voice in Chinese operatic style, while the percussion instruments play the mysterious textures to support the human voice. Both parts are performed by the soloist, with the string instruments in the background, to create the atmosphere and the expression of the parting sorrow in the poem. The following is the English translation of the poem:

How long will the full moon appear?
Wine cup in hand, I ask the sky,
I do not know what time of year would be tonight in the palace on high.
Riding the wind, there I would fly,
Yet I?m afraid the crystalline palace would be
Too high and cold for me.
I rise and dance; with my shadow I play.
On high as on earth, would it be as gay?
The moon goes round the mansions red
Through gauze-draped windows soft to shed
Her light upon the sleepless bed.
Against man she should have no spite.
Why, then, when people part, is she oft full and bright?
Men have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again;
The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane.
There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.
So let us wish that man
Will live long as he can!
Though miles apart, we?ll share the beauty she displays.

"Speedy Wind" is a fixed rhythmic pattern in Beijing Opera percussion performance used in martial scenes. In the concerto, the solo high woodblock leads the whole group of percussion instruments of Beijing Opera in the third movement. The solo cadenza that brings in sets of tom-toms and Beijing Opera gongs stands in the climax and heads for the fiery ending of the work.

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Evelyn Glennie and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Composition Date 1998
Orchestration Solo Perc.; 3(Picc.) 3 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; 3Perc.(Timp.) Str. (
Premiere 8th & 9th March, 1999. Evelyn Glennie, Percussion soloist; Singapore Symphony, conducted by Lan Shui, Singapore.


I. The Night Deepens
II. Prelude to Water Tune
III. Speedy Wind

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