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Program Note

“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” was commissioned by the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra with generous support from the Green Bay Commissioning Club.

The work is a ten-minute musical journey inspired by an old Chinese proverb regarding relationships. The proverb roughly means a good relationship between two people would take a thousand years of good prayers to bring about. As a composer I was fascinated by this story-like idea from an ancient time, and I wanted to create a musical piece, using the Western symphony orchestra, to convey a sense of spiritual bliss. The piece opens with soli French horns but soon unfolds into a slightly faster pace with layers of expanded orchestration. In the end the layers are thinned out and the piece reaches to a strong sense of transparency and clarity. The opening materials are then briefly returned in an unfamiliar way. I regard the piece as a musical journey. It goes from a somewhat rough start to a simple, harmonious closure.

The work is scored for an orchestra of three flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), two oboes, English horn, clarinet in E-flat, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (three players: vibraphone, suspended cymbal, crash cymbal, tamtam, bass drum), harp, piano, and strings.

—Zhou Tian

 

“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” was awarded The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Glick Award (2010), and received subscription performances by The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eberle.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers with illustrations, from ArtsCouncilNY

Reviews

"The first half of the evening [at the Houston Symphony] was an unqualified success. Zhou Tian's attractive A Thousand Years of Good Prayers effectively communicated the goals of the composer, which he eloquently and succinctly described from stage. The simplicity of the piece's was what made it so appealing. The horns proclaim a disjunct melodic statement at the beginning of the work, featuring dissonant leaps and sharp dotted rhythms, and, over the ensuing ten minutes, Zhou proceeds to gradually smooth over these rough edges, ending in a serene cushion of string sound."

"Zhou's harmonic language and orchestration mix Ravel and Barber with a hint of his native China, albeit without the edgy grit of Chen Yi or flamboyant theatricality of Tan Dun. Still, the piece feels first and foremost like an honest musical utterance, which is important in today's day and age. Unabashedly tonal, with a true sense of tension and resolution, the arc of the piece convinces through and through. This is an impressive essay from a 30-year old composer, and Zhou Tian is certainly a compositional voice to watch. This was the one work where Koenig seem to bask in the sheer color of the orchestra, letting phrases linger nicely. The orchestra played with complete conviction and respect for a new score."

—ConcertoNet

 

"The program opened with A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Zhou Tian's evocative tone poem inspired by an ancient Chinese proverb that states "it would take a thousand years of prayers to bring about any good relationship." Commissioned by the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, which premiered it in 2009, the work began with striking drum rolls and brass fanfares. Then, it moved through dramatic expressions of yearning woodwind figures against throbbing strings, gradually reaching its intended Zen-like state of spiritual bliss."

—Houston Chronicle

 

"Making his ISO debut, Austrian Christoph Eberle, superbly guiding its exceptional musicians, opened the concert with 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,' an exquisite piece by Zhou Tian."

"According to Zhouʼs notes in the printed program, his composition is drawn from a Chinese proverb 'that means a good relationship between two people always takes a thousand years of good prayers to bring about.' Zhou also says he 'wanted to write a piece to convey a sense of spiritual bliss.' In this effort he was thoroughly successful."

—Tom Alvarez, The Examiner / Examiner.com

 

"[A Thousand Years of Good Prayers] is an appealing work that expresses an outlook on life in a story-like way...[Conductor] Campestrini called Zhou to the stage to collect his standing ovation..."

—Green Bay Press-Gazette

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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2009)

Commissioned by the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra

Duration: 10 minutes

Scoring: 3(picc).3(corA).3(Eb.Cl).3(cbn)/
4331/timp/3 perc/hp/pno/str

Reduced Scoring A: 2.1.corA.2.2 /4231/timp/2perc/hp/pno(opt)/str

Reduced Scoring B: 2.1.corA.2.2 /2201/timp/2perc/hp/pno(opt)/str

Premiere:
10 October 2009, Weidner Center, Green Bay, WI. The Green Bay Symphony, Christoph Campestrini, conductor.

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