Fantasies on Tang Poetry

Duration: 10 minutes
Year: 2021

Audio Excerpt

Movement I

Program Notes

Fantasies on Tang Poetry (2021) are based around the works of Taiwanese poet Yu Guangzhong (余光中: 1928 – 2017).  The three works represented here are chosen from his anthology 唐詩游神 (Loosely translated as “Travels of Tang Poetry”) wherein he takes Tang dynasty poetry and reimagines them in surprisingly humorous ways.  Each movement presents a pair of poems, beginning with the classical poetry as is before transitioning to Yu Guangzhong’s reinterpretation thus allowing for poetic and musical contrast.  The work was commissioned by Katherine Chu for the Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble, with support from the SOCAN Foundation. It is dedicated to iSing!

 江雪 “River in Snow” 

The poem originally penned by 柳宗元 describes a desolate landscape where a fisherman is works alone on an icy lake.  Yu Guangzhong’s poem takes us deeper into the mind of the poet and imagines the thoughts of the fish in the lake.  A two-note descending motif played by all the instruments conjures the image of the lonely lake which is worked throughout the piece. 

聽箏 “Listening to Zheng” 

In this original four-stanza poem, a beautiful Zheng player attempts to capture the attention of a prince by occasionally playing the wrong notes.  Yu Guangzhong riffs on the humor of the situation by imagining the not-so-well tempered response by the prince…  The piano, violin, and clarinet evoke the Zheng as our protagonist is faced with the “failure” of her plans. 

下江陵 “Jiangling Bound” 

The poem by 李白 describes the jubilant journey the poet took down the river.  Li Bai travelled at such speed that a thousand miles were traversed in a day.  Responding to this hyperbole, Yu Guangzhong’s poem asks whether it is indeed possible to travel so far so quickly given the physical limitations.  Twists and turns (and rapid time signature changes) mark this movement and ends the set in an upbeat fashion.  

Performance History

  • November 9, 2021, Jose Rubio, Baritone; Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble
    Tianjin Juilliard School
    Tianjin, China
  • November 18, 2021, Jose Rubio, Baritone; Tianjin Juilliard Ensemble
    Tianjin Juilliard School Chamber Music Festival
    Tianjin, China
  • May 1, 2022, Jose Rubio, Baritone; Ronny Michael Greenburg, Piano
    Taste of China, The Green Room
    San Francisco, CA, USA


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