From WILL - Evening Concert -

‘Iris Unveiled’ by Qigang Chen


Tonight, it's the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra led by music director Edo de Waart. The program is an eclectic one, featuring Iris Unveiled a work by Chinese composer Qigang Chen, Concerto for Orchestra by Stanislav Skrowaczewski and Brahms’ 3rd Symphony.

Edo de Waart, conductor; *Xiaoduo Chen, soprano; Meng Meng, soprano (Qingyi); Wu Man (Pipa); Yani Yi (Zheng); Hong Wang (Erhu)
BRAHMS:  Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
SKROWACZEWSKI, Stansilaw (b. 1923): Concerto for Orchestra (Skrowaczewski’s Concerto for Orchestra received a Pulitzer nomination in 1999.)
*CHEN, Qigang (b. 1951):  Suite Concertante: Iris dévoilée (Iris Unveiled)

Meetings of Western orchestras and composers of Chinese descent have become fairly regular in the past half century, and Chen, who was in a labor camp and studied at the Beijing Central Conservatory before moving to Paris, has emerged as one of the most prominent composers. “Iris devoilee,” a 2002 Koussevitzky Foundation commission, combines elements of Chinese opera with orchestra and Western singing.

Of the former, the most striking, for those unfamiliar with the medium, were the cat-like glissandos and elegant, red-sequined costume of Meng Meng, whose emotional rendering of the Chinese texts far transcended their translations. Xiaoduo Chen, singing wordless chant in Western style, became a kind of commentary.

Each singer often took positions within the orchestra with a spotlight shining on them, adding to the drama suggested in movement titles such as “Ingenious,” “Chaste,” “Libertine” and “Sensitive.”
Solos on pipa (lute), erhu (two-stringed spike fiddle) and zheng (zither) added coloristic touches, though these talented instrumentalists (Wu Man, Yang Yi and Andy Lin) didn't have enough air time for full appreciation.
The orchestration is lullingly impressionistic, but that came to an abrupt halt in “Hysterical,” when Meng shrieked at the top of her lungs, “I am not your wife,” and the orchestra musicians shrieked along with her. It was an effect unlike any I can remember in Western classical music.

“Voluptuous” closes the work with soft, reflective vocalizations and lovely solos from the erhu and pipa.

(By Michael Huebner -- The Birmingham News
on May 12, 2012 at 10:12 AM, updated May 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM)