Sheng, Bright, remarkable Chinese composer; b. Shanghai, Dec. 6, 1955. He began piano lessons when he was 5; after graduating from high school, he worked as a pianist and timpanist in a dance company in Chinhai, near Tibet, where he began to study Chinese folk music. After China’s Cultural Revolution, he entered the Shanghai Cons. (1976), where he earned an undergraduate degree in composition. In 1982 he followed his parents to the U.S., where he attended Queens Coll. at the City Univ. of N.Y. and Columbia Univ.; his teachers included Chou-Wen Chung, Davidovsky, Perle, and Weisgall. Sheng received numerous awards, both in China and the U.S., including NEA grants, a Guggenheim fellowship, and awards from the American Academy and Inst. of Arts and Letters. His works have been championed by such eminent artists as Peter Serkin, who commissioned his My Song (1988), and Gerard Schwarz, who has given many premiere performances of his orch. pieces. His H’un (Lacerations): In Memoriam 1966–1976 was the first runner-up for the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 1993 it was performed by Masur and the N.Y. Phil, in 6 cities during its European tour and in 1994 it was a featured work by Poland’s National Phil, at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. Sheng appeared throughout the U.S. as a lecturer. After serving as composer-in-residence of the Chicago Lyric Opera, for which he wrote the opera The Song of Majnun (April 9, 1992) with a libretto by Andrew Porter on an Islamic legend, he held that post with the Seattle Sym. Orch. (1992–94). He also orchestrated Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, which received its premiere performance under the direction of Leonard Siatkin in N.Y. on Dec. 6, 1990. In 1994–95 he was artist-in-residence of the Univ. of Washington. Like so many refugees of China’s cultural upheaval, Sheng strives to find the personal means to integrate the disparate musical styles of China and the West.
DRAMATIC: Opera: The Song of Majnun (Chicago, April 9, 1992); may i feel, said he, after e.e. cummings (1996). Theater Piece: Silver River, after D.H. Hwang (1997). ORCH .: 3 Pieces (1981; Shanghai, July 1, 1982); Adagio for Chamber Orch. (N.Y, March 7, 1987); H’un (Lacerations): In Memoriam 1966–1976 (1987; N.Y, April 16, 1988); Fanfare (from China Dreams; 1992); Prelude (from China Dreams; Houston, Nov. 1994); China Dreams (1995); Postcards (1997); Spring Dreams for Cello and Traditional Chinese Orch. (1997); Two Poems for Cello and Orch. (1998); Flute Moon (Houston, May 22, 1999); Nanking Nanking (1999); Red Silk Dance (1999); Piano Concerto (2000). CHAMBER: Trio for Flute, Harp, and Cello (1982); 3 Etudes for Flute (1982; N.Y., Nov. 8, 1985; rev. 1988); 5 Pieces for Oboe and Cello (1983; N.Y, Feb. 20, 1986); 3 string quartets: No. 1 (1984; N.Y, Nov. 11, 1985), No. 2 (1984; Tanglewood, Aug. 21, 1985), and No. 3 (1993); Shao for Oboe, Violin, Cello, and Piano (N.Y, April 1986); 3 Pieces for Viola and Piano (1986; N.Y, Jan. 15, 1987); The Stream Flows for Viola (1988); 4 Movements for Piano Trio (N.Y, April 24, 1990); The Stream Flows—Two Pieces for Violin (1990); Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet (1993); Seven Short Yadhtrib Variations for Bassoon (1994); Seven Tunes Heard in China for Cello (1995); Three Songs for Pipa and Cello (1999). Piano: Suite (Aspen, Aug. 23, 1984); My Song (N.Y, Nov. 11, 1989). VOCAL: 3 Chinese Poems for Mezzo-soprano and Piano (1982–92); 4 Poems from the Tang Dynasty for Mezzo-soprano and Piano (1984; Tanglewood, Aug. 23, 1985); 5 Chinese Folk Songs for Tenor and Piano (N.Y, Sept. 21, 1985); 2 Poems from the Sung Dynasty for Soprano and Chamber Orch. (1985; N.Y., March 26, 1986); 3 Chinese Love Songs for Soprano, Viola, and Piano (Tanglewood, Aug. 26, 1988); 2 Folk Songs from Qinghai for Chorus, 2 Pianos, and 2 Percussion or Chorus and Orch. (Boston, Oct. 28, 1989); Fragments from “The Song of Magnun” for Soprano, Tenor, Large and Small Choruses, and Orch. (1992); may i feel, said he for Soprano, Tenor, and Piano, 4-Hands (1996).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire