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East West Symphony

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Swiss composer Heinrich Schweizer's East West Symphony, a blend of Chinese and Western music in a performance by the China Broadcasting Orchestra and the Zurich Symphony Orchestra under conductor Bian Zusahn.

This content was published on March 18, 2003 - 08:41

East West Symphony for Chinese and Western Symphony Orchestras

Heinrich Schweizer's East West Symphony celebrates the cultural interaction between Hong Kong, China and the West.

It is the first major work to put both, a full Chinese and a full Western orchestra on the same stage, and it is designed to have an immediate appeal. The East West Symphony weaves Chinese and Western music together in a uniquely imaginative way.

Most of the delicate instruments that make up a Chinese orchestra were never intended to deal with complex and chromatically demanding harmonies. In contrast, the instruments of the Western orchestra have been adapted constantly to suit the demands of composers in their constant search for new forms and sonorities.

The East West Symphony seeks to unite these two different traditions in a work that brings out the best of both worlds.

In the 1st movement the opening movement covers a period from Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) to end in the 19th century. The opening theme, played on the "guzheng" introduces the oldest known Chinese melody: a farewell song from the Tang Dynasty.

The 2nd movement takes the story from the beginning of the 20th century to 1967. It consists of a well-structured duet between the two orchestras, with the Chinese orchestra playing Chinese melodies and with the Western orchestra developing the historical outline of Western music.

The 3rd movement traces developments from about 1968-1990.
As the Chinese orchestra plays a fully developed Western theme for the first time, the Western orchestra expands on a Chinese melody.

The 4th movement's finale consists of an East-West "hymn without words", designed to express the solemn moment in June 1997 when Hong Kong once again became part of China.

Heinrich Schweizer

Heinrich Schweizer was born in Switzerland in 1943. At age 18 he entered the professional class at the Bienne Conservatory, continuing at the Zurich Conservatory. He received his diploma as an orchestral performer in 1967 and graduated as a teacher for musical theory in 1973.

Schweizer has been influenced by elements outside the European tradition. In addition to composing, Heinrich Schweizer lectures at various conservatories of music in China, Singapore and Australia. He is also active as an orchestra conductor.

Zurich Symphony Orchestra

The Zurich Symphony Orchestra (Symphonisches Orchester Zürich) was founded by Daniel Schweizer in 1981. It is made up of free-lance musicians and music teachers who regularly perform together.

The orchestra has its own concert season witch is held at the Zurich Tonhalle. It also performs throughout Switzerland and internationally.

The orchestra has earned recognitions for its unconventional programmes and the performances of new compositions.

China Broadcasting Orchestra

The China Broadcasting Orchestra, founded in 1953, performs a wide repertoire of compositions ranging from classical Chinese music on traditional instruments to classical European music by composers such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Ravel. The orchestra is made up of 75 musicians.
The formation that appears on this recording is thus a smaller part of the orchestra – the appearance of the whole ensemble would have burst both the size and budget limits.

Bian Zushan, conductor

Born in Southern China in 1936, conductor Bian Zushan received his musical training at the Shanghai Conservatory. He was appointed the principal conductor of the Peking Ballet Orchestra in 1961.

He also conducts in England, the United States, Russia and the Philippines. His appearances throughout Asia have earned him widespread recognition.

Production information.

Heinrich Schweizer. East West Symphony (1997). Musica Helvetica MH CD 102.2. Executive producer: Christian Strickler for SRI.

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