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Tan Dun

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Water Passion After St. Matthew (2000),
Work Notes
Performance restrictions apply. Please contact us for further information.
Parnassus Productions, Inc. (Tan Dun)
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 30 Minutes
SATB chorus doubling Tibetan percussion
Soprano (doubling Xun), Bass baritone (doubling Xun)
Purchase CD
Programme Note
Tan Dun Water Passion After St. Matthew (2000),
Please note that there are performance restrictions
applicable to this work. Please contact us for additional information.

In my hometown, in ancient times and even in my childhood in the village, the people were always washing rice in the river before they cooked it, and washing their clothes in the river, washing their bodies in the river. I had the experience of living with the water, playing with the water, listening to the water. It was very important to me.

Three or four years ago, when my wife was pregnant, we went to the doctor for an ultrasound, and there I could see this beautiful baby and hear the heart. Suddenly I heard this beautiful water sound and I realized: this is the sound all human beings hear first. At that time I had just gotten the commission for the Water Passion. I said, "I’ve got to start with water"— it’s the beginning, and the beginning is the ending, and the end is the beginning. That’s the meaning of resurrection. Resurrection isn’t just a new life, but a new idea.

—Tan Dun

  • Ensemble
    Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
    Maya Beiser, Stephen Bryant, David Sheppard, Elizabeth Keusch, Martin Homann, Adam Weisman, Chen Yuanlin, David Cossin, Mark O'Connor
    Tan Dun
    Sony Classical:
[Tan Dun] applies bold strokes throughout in vocal as well as instrumental writing.
James R. Oestreich, The New York Times,01/01/0001
17 bowls filled with water form a cross. At three ends of the cross, percussionists sit with drums, tumblers, stones. At the fourth stands the composer and conductor Tan Dun. Members of London Voices [are] bathed in blue light...throughout they weave Tan's equivalent of Bach's four-part chorales. WATER PASSION AFTER ST. MATTHEW, commissioned for this year's Bach anniversary by the International Bach-Akademie Stuttgart, is an astonishing piece conceptually. The Passion story is prised from its perch in Western Christianity, re-imagined and re-heard in the light of natural sounds and the myriad musical traditions of the Far East. It is ritual. It is opera.
Geoff Brown, The Times (London),01/01/0001
Tan Dun's Water Passion [is] a refined and intensely contemplative setting of St. Matthew in English. It is a work of captivating visual music and sound meticulously disposed in space. Tan plays virtuosically with watery symbols of baptism, creation and rebirth. At the center of the stage are 17 large bowls, filled with water, lit from below and arranged in the shape of a cross. Tan is sensationally inventive with sound, and the play of timbres. The three percussionists make water drip, flow, burble, crash and hiss. They lift handfuls of water than fling it back down. They stir it, strike it with pairs of plastic cups, float soup bowls upside down in it and play them. Then there is the chorus, a stunning ensemble of whispered syllables and precise howls. Two vocal soloists rendered the drama in a mix of Chinese vocal techniques. Cellist Maya Beiser and violinist Cho-Liang Lin evoked the sounds of the Mongolian steppes and the scales of Central Asia. The whole polyglot mixture [was] spectacularly performed.
Justin Davidson, New York Newsday,01/01/0001
Water Passion After St. Matthew took place nearly three weeks ago, but memories of it continue to resonate... ...The East and West, ancient and avant-garde, provocative and primordial, come together in angry collisions, gentle embraces, and seamless fusion. It is impossible to imagine a stronger or more skillfully produced performance than that provided by Tan Dun. He led an extraordinary group of international artists...[and the] audience on a compelling, otherworldly journey unlike any other.
Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post,01/01/0001
...a wondrous array of haunting and elemental sounds proved the most striking quality of Water Passion after St. Matthew.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,01/01/0001
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