In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, enjoy these works by AAPI composers. Selected by SLSO musicians and staff, many of the featured composers have a connection to the SLSO or to Missouri.
Tan Dun is perhaps best known for his music to the acclaimed film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but he also boasts a robust portfolio of music for the concert stage, including orchestral music and operas. In 2009, the SLSO performed his Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra, using oversized bowls of water as instruments, in memory of Japanese composer Torū Takemitsu. Additionally, SLSO Principal Double Bassist Erik Harris gave the U.S. premiere of Tan Dun’s Concerto for Contrabass, “The Wolf,” which is inspired by the fierce Mongolian wolf.
The SLSO played Huang Ruo’s Flower Drum Song from Feng Yang in 2019 at an education concert. Ruo has deeper St. Louis connections: he was the composer of the opera An American Soldier, premiered by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2018.
Also known for his work in the field of opera, the SLSO has performed pieces by Bright Sheng on two occasions: China Dreams in 2001 and Colors of Crimson in 2009.
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Chen Yi has a long list of compositions to her name, including her famous percussion concerto. She now lives in Kansas City and teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a composer faculty member.
A composer and pianist, Juri Seo first appeared on the SLSO’s Live at the Pulitzer series in 2019. Percussionists performed her contemporary pieces, Wah and Shui.
Paul Chihara is known for his long-lasting career, including his work in Hollywood. The SLSO first performed his Wind Song in 1976, then Willow, Willow in 1983, and most recently, Redwood in 1987.
The late Wen-Chung Chou is remembered for his unique canon of work, a contemporary expression of the principles of traditional Chinese aesthetics, which has had a momentous impact on the development of modern music in Asia and in post-colonial cultures. The SLSO performed his works three times in 1970, 1988, and 1992.
One of the most recent AAPI composers to have music performed by the SLSO, Music Director Stéphane Denève selected music from Li’s Spring Festival Suite to perform at the 2019 New Year’s Eve concert. The performance received a rousing ovation.
Chen Gang and He Zhanhao
The Butterfly Lover’s Violin Concerto, a collaboration between Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, is one of the most beautiful violin concertos in the repertoire. Gil Shaham, who has performed with the SLSO on numerous occasions, recorded the work, which is very popular and famous in the Chinese community.
Another selection from the 2019 New Year’s Eve concert, Japanese composer Torū Takemitsu’s Waltz from The Face of Another, reflects the composer’s desire to incorporate traditional Japanese music into his compositions.
Keiko Abe is one of the most famous living Japanese female composers and percussionists. A primary figure in the development of the marimba, she collaborated with the Yamaha corporation and developed the modern five octave concert marimba.
One of the most sought-after composers today, Korean composer Unsuk Chin is well known for her opera Alice in Wonderland, which received its American premiere by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2012.
Chin-Wen Chao, a Taiwanese female composer, is known for her work that incorporates sound effects. SLSO clarinetist Tzuying Huang performed her work “Pale Fire II” at the Pulitzer in 2018, a work created for solo clarinet and electronic effects.
Reena Esmail, an Indian-American composer, incorporates both Indian folk songs and Western classical traditions in her work. Cellist Peter Myers, son of SLSO violinist Dana Edson Myers and SLSO Principal Trombonist Tim Myers, was part of an ensemble that recorded her chamber works.
A rising Vietnamese-American composer, Viet Cuong was a resident fellow at the Mizzou International Composers Festival in 2018.
Nina Shekhar, an Indian-American composer, is another AAPI musician with close ties to the Midwest. She is currently a resident fellow at the Mizzou International Composers Fest.
Zhou Long was the first Chinese-American composer to win a Pulitzer prize in music for Madame White Snake, a deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West. He is a professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City.