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For Purchase

Available Recording

China Dreams


for Orchestra, 6 Minutes

Program Note

Prelude composed in 1994, is the first movement of China Dreams, very often performed as an independent piece by orchestras.

China Dreams was composed between 1992 and 1995. The first movement Prelude is dedicated to Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony Orchestra; the second is dedicated to Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic; the last two are dedicated to Gerald Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony. The first performance of the complete score was given by the Seattle Symphony and Mr. Schwarz on September 15, 1995, in Seattle. The score calls for two flutes and two piccolos, two oboes and english horn, three clarinets, E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, harp, celesta, piano, glockenspiel, chimes, suspended cymbals, bass drum, bongos, woodblocks, tambourine, small Peking Opera gong, bell tree, triangle, xylophone, tam-tam, crotales, slapstick, timpani and strings.

The four movements that make up China Dreams were composed at different times between 1992 and 1995, when I was the Composer-in-Residence with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Although the first two movements (Prelude and Fanfare) were commissioned respectively by the Houston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic, from the very beginning I had the idea to combine them as a larger symphonic suite. The first movement is a lyrical, atmospheric prelude for orchestra; its themes have the folk flavor the northwest region of China. The subsequent movement is a fanfare--brilliant, percussive, and insistent. The Streams Flows, for stings alone--is based on a well-known Chinese folk tune from the Yunnan Province in the south of China. The final movement, The Three Gorges of the Long River (also known as the Yangtze River), continues and develops the music introduced in the prelude. The title China Dreams has two meanings: First, while I was writing these movements, I realized that I was very homesick from China, which I had not seen since I left there in 1982. So in a sense it is the music I as an émigré had to write. Secondly, the first half of the last movement came to me in a dream, and, although I usually find that the music I hear in my dreams does not stand up well the next day, this proved to have more staying power.

—Bright Sheng