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Tan Dun

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra (1998)
Work Notes
Performance restrictions apply. Please contact us for further information.
G Schirmer Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
27 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Tan Dun Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra (1998)

Water is an element you can’t block. You can block land, you can say this is China and this is Russia, but water has no such frontiers.

What I want to present… is music that is for listening to in a visual way, and watching in an audio way. I want it to be intoxicating. And I hope some people will listen and rediscover life's elements, things that are around us but we don’t notice.

—Tan Dun

Water Concerto was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic.

In a dimly lit Plaza Theatre, the piece opened with a procession of percussionists who played waterphones while walking through the audience. These unique instruments, aptly created by Richard Waters, provided an eerie, other-worldly sound that joined the [orchestra’s] strings as the lights came up. From there the piece took off and the audience was treated to an unusual and amazing amalgam of sights and sounds. David Cossin, the guest percussionist and soloist, was a true virtuoso who displayed remarkable genius as he deftly created inimitable, sensuous, organic and sometimes capricious sounds using large bowls of water and various implements ... All of this was enhanced by video images of the performance, created by guest videographer Mike Newman, which were projected on large screens above the orchestra.
Patti Wetzel, El Paso Times,27/02/2007
...last night the concert in which Tan conducted with the BBC Symphony Orchestra culminated in his Water Concerto, for water percussion and orchestra, composed in 1999. That's right. Water percussion. For the three solo percussionists are indeed required to get rather wet. Before each is set a miked-up, transparent bowl of water. The water they slap, beat or simply cup with their hands. They beat it with various drum beaters and other things like hollow Perspex tubes...Upturned plastic salad bowls come into the equation...Chinese gongs are lowered into and raised from the water while resonating. The result is hypnotic, both visually and aurally. And the orchestra resorts to a few unusual techniques of its own: the blowing of detached mouthpieces, or, in the case of the brass, the beating of (attached) mouthpieces with palms of hands. Yet the concerto is not just about sound effects. It's also a substantial three-movement, goal-oriented piece, typically eclectic and functioning on tensions, or maybe just contrasts, between the stasic and kinetic, the occidental and oriental.
Stephen Pettitt, Evenin Standard (London),01/01/0001
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