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Chinese New Year Playlist

February 6, 2014

All fans know that China, and East Asia in general, is a fast-growing consumer of classical music. Right now, the New York Philharmonic is on a tour of China, Korea, and Japan, the San Francisco Symphony has been there several times, and the San Francisco Conservatory has a student exchange program with the Shanghai Conservatory. And in places like the Bay Area, with a large Chinese population, the Lunar New Year Concert has become traditional. In case you can’t make it out East, you can celebrate here musically with SFCV’s playlist for the Year of the Horse.


1. “Dragon Dance,” from Symphony 1997: Heaven, Earth, Mankind (Tan Dun); Hong Kong Philharmonic, Tan Dun, cond.
Written for the incorporation of Hong Kong into China and premiered at the London Proms, this symphony is an “event” piece, incorporating a bells choir, traditional percussion, a children’s chorus, and Yo-Yo Ma on cello.

2. Overture from “Spring Festival Suite” (Li Huang); Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra.
Despite Puxatawny Phil’s prediction this year, the Lunar New Year is a day to look forward to spring, the first season of the new year.

3. “Turning of the Wheel” from Solstice (Lou Harrison); California Symphony, Barry Jekowsky, conductor.
Harrison studied Chinese and other Asian musics, evident in this piece, which also refers to the changing seasons and the passage of time.

4. “Song of the Fisherman,” Chinese trad., arr. Li He; on the albumChinese Classical Music.
Chinese classical music refers mainly to folk tunes arranged for a traditional ensemble, like this one.

5. “Reflections of the Moon in the Er-Quan Spring,” Chinese trad., arr. Jiang Yi-Wen; on the album Chinasong, Shanghai String Quartet.
Another folk song, played by China’s most renowned string quartet.

6. “Written on a Rainy Night,” from Tang Poems (Chen Yi); on the album Colors of Love, Chanticleer men’s chorus.
A colorful choral work by busy composer Chen Yi.

7. “L’eau” (Water) from The Five Elements (Chen Qigang); Orchestre National de France, Charles Dutoit, cond.
Shortlisted for the Masterprize in 2000, this work showcases an excellent composer living in France.

8. “White Snow in a Sunny Spring,” Chinese trad., Wu Man, pipa
We end with a rousing tune from pipa virtuoso Wu Man.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.