Naxos Canadian Classics, Dreamscapes, Vivian Fung, Metropolis Ensemble, Conor Hanick
Naxos Canadian Classics announces the September 25, 2012 release of Dreamscapes, a world premiere recording of three works by Edmonton-born composer Vivian Fung. The recording features Ms. Fung's acclaimed Violin Concerto (2011) and Piano Concerto "Dreamscapes" (2009), performed by Metropolis Ensemble with conductor Andrew Cyr, violinist Kristin Lee, and pianist Conor Hanick; and her Glimpses for prepared piano (2006), performed by Mr. Hanick. The concertos, both commissioned by Metropolis Ensemble, were recorded at Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood and produced by Tim Martyn.
All three of the works on the new recording have drawn their inspiration from Ms. Fung's travels to Bali. The composer began developing ideas for the Violin Concerto during a summer 2010 tour of Bali with Gamelan Dharma Swara, on which she was joined for part of the trip by Ms. Lee, the concertmaster of Metropolis Ensemble. Ms. Fung says, "the gamelan sonorities ringing through my head were a natural inspiration for me, but just as meaningful was Kristin's presence. The concerto draws on the sights, sounds, and memories of Bali as well as my getting to know Kristin, her firebrand style of playing as well as the intense lyricism that she expresses."
The Violin Concerto consists of one continuous movement with a series of fast and slow sections. It begins slowly with bird-like whistles in the strings that accelerate in a driving transition toward a kebyar-like declaration from the orchestra. The soloist enters in this fast section featuring odd-meters and jaunting rhythms. A "ghostly" slow section follows with harmonic effects in the strings that slowly accelerate into a virtuosic passage in perpetual motion. The involved cadenza that follows ascends toward one of the highest pitches on the violin, marked "play like a rock star." In the finale of the concerto, the soloist quotes from a Javanese folk song with frequent interplay from the orchestra. The concerto ends as it began, with birdlike whistles fading into ascending glissandi.
After the world premiere by Metropolis Ensemble and Ms. Lee in September of 2011, The Strad magazine praised the Violin Concerto as a work of "sinuous melodies, moto perpetuo passages, and a ferocious cadenza…reminiscent of Benjamin Britten or Colin McPhee in their Balinese mode… but it also travelled through more contemporary idioms."
Originally written for pianist Jenny Lin, Fung's Glimpses for prepared piano has been championed by a diverse group of pianists, including Margaret Leng Tan, Jenny Q Chai, Bryan Wagorn, Vicky Chow, and Conor Hanick, featured on this recording. Glimpses features three pieces, each of which explores a different aspect of prepared piano. The first piece, Kotekan, refers to an Indonesian terms that describes interlocking rhythms used in gamelan works. The second piece, Snow, uses the colors of the piano's upper ranges to depict light and sweeping motions. The final piece, Chant, has the pianist playing inside the piano and pulling on rosined butcher twine to produce a deep drone heard throughout the piece.
Fung's Piano Concerto "Dreamscapes"pays homage to "the gamelan gong keybar-style work, Ujan Mas, and a composition for legong dance," the composer notes. In one continuous movement, Dreamscapes begins with a prologue heralded by bird whistles, which Ms. Fung purchased from a street vendor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and which were later used for the work's world premiere in New York by Metropolis Ensemble with pianist Jenny Lin in 2009. The work moves through a series of four contrasting vignettes, which feature gamelan-like interlocking rhythms, and an expanded version of Koketan (from Glimpses for prepared piano).
Vivian Fung has distinguished herself as a composer with a powerful compositional voice, whose music often merges Western forms with non-Western influences such as Balinese and Javanese gamelan and folk songs from minority regions of China.
New projects in the current 2012-2013 concert season include commissions for an orchestral work for Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, a new string quartet for the Banff International String Quartet Competition, a new work for piano for the International Beethoven Project in Chicago, a gamelan work, Kreasi Mekanik Mainan for Gamelan Yowana Sari at Queens College, and Gamelan Grunge for CONTACT Contemporary Music in Toronto. Ms. Fung was composer-in-residence at the Delaware Chamber Music Festival in July 2012, where Kristin Lee and Conor Hanick gave the world premiere of a commissioned work, Birdsong for violin and piano. The duo will give Philadelphia and New York premieres of Birdsong at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and Americas Society respectively in September 2012.
As the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, Ms. Fung will travel to Southwest China in 2013 for ethno-musicological research to study minority music and cultures in the Yunnan province, continuing research that previously inspired Yunnan Folk Songs (2011), commissioned by Fulcrum Point New Music in Chicago with support from the MAP Fund. Following the March 2011 world premiere, The Chicago Tribune wrote, "Yunnan Folk Songs stood out… [with] a winning rawness that went beyond exoticism." Ms. Fung toured Bali in 2010 and competed in the Bali Arts Festival as an ensemble member and composer in Gamelan Dharma Swara.
Vivian Fung's music has been embraced as part of the core repertoire by many distinguished artists and ensembles around the world. Pizzicato for string quartet was recorded on the Telarc label by the Ying Quartet and has remained part of their repertoire for several seasons. The Escher String Quartet also performed Pizzicato for the opening night of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's 2011-2012 season. Ms. Fung's String Quartet No. 2 was commissioned by the Shanghai String Quartet for its 25th anniversary international tour in 2009-2010, including its world premiere at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC and the Canadian premiere in Ms. Fung's native city of Edmonton. Ms. Fung's orchestral and chamber works have also been performed by the Afiara String Quartet, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Chamber Orchestra, Music from China, and American Opera Projects, to name a few.