Described as “absolutely beautiful” and “utterly satisfying” (Fanfare), the works of Chinese-born American composer Zhou Tian ( JOH TEE-en) have been performed by leading orchestras and performers in the United States and abroad, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, RTÉ National Symphony (Ireland), pianist Yuja Wang, violist Roberto Díaz, flutist Jeffrey Khaner, guitarist Jason Vieaux, Arditti and Dover string quartets, Empire Brass, Eroica Trio, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
His newest orchestral work, “Concerto for Orchestra,” described as “stunning,” “tonal and engaging” (The Cincinnati Enquirer), was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony and premiered in its 2015-16 season finale, conducted by Music Director Louis Langrée. The work was recently released in the orchestra’s latest recording “Concertos for Orchestra.”
Critically acclaimed for his lush and distinctive musical voice, Zhou’s other recent commissions include Trace, (“Lush, neo-impressionistic” —The Cincinnati Enquirer), by the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen; Violin Concerto (“Magical...this is new music I’d love to hear again and again.” —Palm Beach Arts Paper), by the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, conducted by Stewart Robertson and featuring violinist Caroline Goulding; First Sight by the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Sarah Hicks; A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, (“Exquisite, thoroughly successful”—The Examiner), by the Green Bay Symphony, conducted by Christoph Campestrini; and Red Trees, Wrinkled Cliffs, by the Curtis Institute for its concert tour around the world led by Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and president Roberto Díaz.
One of Zhou’s biggest interests is to seek inspirations from different cultures and mix them seamlessly into to one musically satisfying package. His 2016-17 season, for example, includes works as diverse as Broken Ink, a 30-minute, multi-movement meditation on Song Dynasty poetry premiered by Princeton Symphony under Rossen Milanov; Petals of Fire, a fierce rhapsody inspired by American artist Cy Twombly’s 1989 painting, premiered by Michigan State University Wind Symphony under Kevin Sedatole at the 2017 CBDNA National Convention; and the Spain-inspired Viaje (Spanish for voyage) for flute and strings, of which the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote “[it] fused the composer's Chinese American sensibility with the lore of ancient Spain so convincingly that the exotic flute solos for Stillman sounded like the most natural thing in the world.”
His The Grand Canal, a kaleidoscopic large-scale work mixing together two traditional Chinese instrumentalists (erhu and ruan), a Chinese opera singer, and a full symphony orchestra with an optional chorus, was performed during a nationally televised celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The work was also selected as a theme at 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and received its US premiere by Princeton (NJ) and Columbus (OH) symphonies, conducted by Rossen Milanov.
Other noted orchestral performances have come from the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Daniel Meyer, Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, Houston Symphony and Christoph Köenig, Indianapolis Symphony and Christoph Eberle, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Rossen Milanov, RTÉ National Symphony (Ireland) and Jiamin Song, Reno Philharmonic and Laura Jackson, Spokane Symphony and Eckart Preu, Winston-Salem Symphony and Matthew Troy, Hawaii Symphony and Sarah Hicks, Asheville Symphony and Daniel Meyer, Curtis Symphony and Benjamin Shwartz, and American Composers Orchestra conducted by Paul Dunkel.
Zhou’s music has been performed repeatedly at prestigious venues around the world such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood Festival, Ecoles d'Art Américaines de Fontainebleau in France, Usedomer Musikfestival in Germany, and Mozarteum Brasileiro in Brazil. He has served as composer-in-residence with the Green Bay Symphony and Chicago's Music In the Loft Concert Series. His works have been broadcast on NPR, PBS, and recorded on Cedille, Innova, and Pacific records.
Among Zhou’s many awards and honors are first prize in the Washington International Competition for Composers, first prize in the ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Art Song Competition, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Glick Award, the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute, Symphony in C Composers Award, American Composers Orchestra Underwood Readings, Presser Music Award, three ASCAP Morton Gould awards, and an Excellence Award of Large Symphonic Work in the 16th Musical Composition Award given (every five years) by the Ministry of Culture of China. In 2013, the recording of his String Quartet No. 2 “the Great Wall” was nominated for the Best Classical Album and won Best Instrumental Performance at the “Chinese Grammy” – the Golden Melody Awards. His recording of “The Grand Canal” was included in the 100 Important Audio and Video Publications of 2009 by General Administration of Press and Publication of China, and exhibited at MIDEM, the world’s leading international event for the music industry in Cannes, France. Many of his commissions were supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Outside of the Classical arena, Zhou has considerable experiences in composing and producing music for film and crossover genres. He started playing piano in recording sessions and arranging all kinds of music when he was 12, often working with his father who is a busy commercial composer in China. When he was 17, his interest in Jazz led to the creation of “Duet” for flute and piano, which earned him an Honorable Mention at 1999 Julius Hemphill International Jazz Composition Awards.
His music for the Chinese feature film “Eternal Beloved,” starring Faye Yu, received wide critical acclaim since the premiere at 2009 Shanghai International Film Festival. His award-winning crossover albums put Chinese folk music on a spin by mixing performance and technology.
Born in 1981 in Hangzhou, China, Zhou holds music degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music (B.M.), the Juilliard School (M.M.) and USC Thornton School of Music (D.M.A.). He studied composition with Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, Stephen Hartke, Richard Danielpour, and Donald Crockett, and held Composition Fellowships from Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, Henri Mancini Institute, and American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. He taught at Colgate University since 2011, and joined Michigan State University College of Music as associate professor of composition in 2016. Visit ZhouTianMusic.com for more.
Described as “absolutely beautiful” and “utterly satisfying” (Fanfare), the works of Chinese-born American composer Zhou Tian (JOH TEE-en) have been performed by leading orchestras and performers in the United States and abroad, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Ireland’s RTÉ National Symphony, pianist Yuja Wang, flutist Jeffrey Khaner, guitarist Jason Vieaux, Arditti and Dover string quartets, Empire Brass, Eroica Trio, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus. His newest orchestral work, “Concerto for Orchestra,” described as “stunning,” “tonal and engaging” (The Cincinnati Enquirer), was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony and premiered in its 2015-16 season finale, conducted by Music Director Louis Langrée. The work was recently released in the orchestra’s latest recording “Concertos for Orchestra.” His large-scale suite for soloists, orchestra, and chorus, “The Grand Canal,” was performed during a nationally televised celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Critically acclaimed for his lush and distinctive musical voice, his music has been performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, broadcast on NPR and PBS, and recorded on Cedille and Innova records. He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute (B.M.), the Juilliard School (M.M.), and USC Thornton School of Music (D.M.A.). His principle teachers included Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, and Stephen Hartke. He is a first-prize winner of Washington International Composers Competition and ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Art Song Competition, and held Composition Fellowships from Tanglewood and Aspen. He is associate professor of composition at Michigan State University College of Music. Visit ZhouTianMusic.com for more.
Note: Zhou Tian is pronounced: JOH TEE-en. Following a traditional spelling of Chinese-American artists, the composer’s family name is Zhou and his given name is Tian. When only the composer’s last name is listed in the program, it should be listed as “Zhou.” The full name should be listed as “Zhou Tian.” He goes by Zhou (Joh), or formally, Mr./Dr. Zhou. Thank you.
© Zhou Tian / Zhou Tian Music
Excerpt from "Prism" performed by Yuja Wang
©Zhou Tian (ASCAP), The Curtis Inst. of Music