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Bright Sheng

Publisher: G. Schirmer

String Quartet No. 4 -- Silent Temple (2000)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
17 Minutes
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Programme Note
Bright Sheng String Quartet No. 4 -- Silent Temple (2000)
Composer Note:

String Quartet #4 (Silent Temple) was jointly commissioned for the Shanghai Quartet by Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution and University of Richmond, Virginia. It is dedicated to the Shanghai Quartet.

In the early 1970s, I visited an abandoned Buddhist temple in northwest China. As all religious activities were completely forbidden at the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the temple, renowned among the Buddhist community all over the world, was unattended and on the brim of turning into a ruin.

The most striking and powerful memory I had for the visit was that, in spite of the appalling condition of the temple, it was still in its grandiose and magnificent structure. And the fact that it was located in the snowy mountainous ranges added to its dignity and glory. Standing in the middle of the courtyard I could almost hear the praying and the chanting of the monks, as well as the violence committed to the temple and the monks by the "Red Guards."

To this day, the memories of the visit remain vivid. And I use them almost randomly as the basic images of the composition. As a result, the work has four short and seemingly unrelated ideas, which should be performed without pause.

—Bright Sheng

Sample Pages

SILENT TEMPLE, the fourth string quartet of Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, evokes the atmosphere and historical echoes of an abandoned Buddhist monastery that Sheng visited during the Cultural Revolution. This compact and extraordinarily intense four-movement work can be heard as representational music, as monk's chants and the plucked-string slides of Chinese fiddles are interrupted and ultimately dispersed by stark chords in march time, representing the invading Red Guards. The composer prefers to cast it as a recollection filtered through the imagination into music - "almost like in a dream." The Shanghai played with deep concentration and apparent ease in negotiating Sheng's complex textures and juxtapositions of tone and resonant silence. SILENT TEMPLE sounds on first hearing to be a potent sequel-in-miniature to Sheng's best-known work, H'UN (LACERATIONS): IN MEMORIAM 1966-76, a symphonic sound portrait of the Cultural Revolution written in 1988.
Clarke Bustard, Richmond Times-Dispatch,01/01/0001
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