"The piece [Reading an Anthology…] is absolutely beautiful. Zhou evokes a sense of space and timelessness that suits the text perfectly.”
"Zhou Tian’s Concerto for Orchestra was the third installment of Langrée’s Concerto for Orchestra project, and it was being recorded live for a planned album on the orchestra’s label. The 34-year-old composer is among the third generation of Chinese-born composers now impacting American music.
Trained at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, New York’s Juilliard School and the University of Southern California, Zhou Tian has studied with some of America’s finest composers, such as Jennifer Higdon. But his music also displays his gift for lyricism and evocative color that may be the result of his Chinese upbringing. The composer told the audience that his concerto was “a love letter” to the CSO. Besides power and “edginess,” he tried to mirror the romantic quality of the orchestra in his music, he said.
Tonal and engaging, it was an ambitious showpiece in four symphonic movements. The first, entitled “Glow,” was a patchwork of many ideas, including glowing instrumental colors, lush melodies for the strings, staccato figures for the trumpets and big cadenza for clarinet (Jonathan Gunn), complete with Gershwin-like “smears.”...the slow movement, “Indigo,” was stunning. Atmospheric and reminiscent of Bartok’s “night music,” it featured bird calls for the flutes and mystical writing for the strings.
A lighthearted scherzo movement followed, with an angular theme that wound its way inventively through a number of orchestral soloists. The finale balanced intimate, chamber-like sections – such as an opening sextet for five strings and clarinet – against romantic melodies for full orchestra. A driving perpetual motion, it continuously engaged the ear with inventive touches such as ripples in the piano, timpani flourishes and Chinese gongs."
—The Cincinnati Enquirer
“Zhou Tian's Viaje 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.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“MASTERFUL NEW [VIOLIN] CONCERTO, ROUSING BEETHOVEN MAKE SPLENDID FAREWELL FOR ACO’S ROBERTSON' [headline]
"The first movement (marked Vivo) begins with Goulding attacking fast, difficult runs in a cadenza-like solo that the orchestra soon picks up on, copying her brief statements. Soon, the soloist breaks out into a lovely melodic piece, quite original in its choice of notes. The rich orchestral background texture, especially from the cellos, helps build to a long sustained high note followed by racing scales from the solo violin. Quick interruptions from the flute in dotted notes make for an original touch.
The brass section takes prominence and the music drifts into what can only be described as a sound from East Asia, perhaps reflecting the influence of the erhu, the Chinese folk fiddle that Zhou said inspired him in this piece. Next comes a cadenza of the most magnificent magnitude musically. Soloist Goulding gave it her very best. Another original touch was the single beat of a huge gong, interspersed twice during the soloist’s cadenza and with one extended gong sound towards the end of her playing. The effect was magical.
The second movement (Andante amoroso) begins with strings playing in a reverent mood in the middle range. The solo violin starts higher, picking up the somber mood and begins a series of elegant phrases, masking the hinted atonality with the romanticism of the music she plays. A lone bassoon picks out some of the soloists notes of this particularly lovely music, so easy on the ear. The full orchestra again join in and the solo violin plays with soaring melodic loveliness.
There’s a pastoral quality that infuses the mood of the orchestral accompaniment. The solo violin goes from low to high in continual scales and then plucks her strings to the accompaniment of the timpani and a solo trumpet, leading to a mysterious ending.
The fast finale, marked Allegro con brio, begins with clever staccato notes penetrating the air. A three-note theme surfaces from the orchestra, then from the soloist. Taken very fast, the trumpets blast out a six-note tune, which the soloist picks up immediately and varies. Syncopated rhythms from the orchestra take over as the soloist answers the orchestra in like manner going back and forth with one another. With slides and glissandos, soloist and orchestra race to a final climax where everything is thrown at it.
The last solo violin music kept resonating in my mind continually for hours after the concert. This is new music I’d love to hear again and again. It is a minor masterpiece."
—Palm Beach Arts Paper
"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."
"Zhou Tian (Zhou is his family name) was born in China in 1981, and he's now on the faculty of Colgate University in Hamilton NY. All his teachers--Jennifer Higdon and Christopher Rouse among them--were Americans, and there was nothing in his concerto that sounded overtly Asian. Zhou's writing, like Escaich's, is tonally based, but phrases often follow themselves to their own conclusions, whether or not they butt up against another phrase. His harmonies have a Hindemithian punch to them. The first theme in the first movement [of Concerto for Orchestra] is playful, with rippling woodwinds and hints of Stravinsky and impressionism. The lower strings introduce the second theme, slower and more romantic. Zhou makes his structures very clear. He is unafraid of monumental gestures, but at the same time he wastes nothing, whether notes or our time itself. A clarinet cadenza seemed out of place until the other winds joined in, reconstructing the opening theme around it for the recapitulation.
In II gauzy strings and then summery winds present themselves; Zhou's sense of dissonance is almost rigorous, but he writes so smoothly and naturally that they gave no offense. The orchestra played like they'd known the piece all their lives; the musicians were the most united and expressive I've heard in a while. The strings' luster made me wish I could stop writing and just listen. The last two movements are thematically weaker, though there are always touches of fine craftsmanship. In the final movement, Intermezzo-Allegro, the trumpet fanfare that marked the transition between the two parts was brought in with astounding deftness. I only wished the themes lived up to what came before.
My understanding is that all three concertos are coming out on disc at some point, and I'm looking forward to hearing them again. Maybe I'll hear things in the last two movements that I didn't the first time through. If it's not a masterpiece, it is still a work to be proud of."
—American Record Guide
"It made for one of the most creative – and most enjoyable – concerts heard at Music Hall this season. Zhou’s “Poem [from a Vanished Time],” a CSO commission, opened the concert on a lush, neo-impressionistic note. The work recalls a vanished China, one replaced by industrialization. Concertmaster Timothy Lees was the soloist, giving the work its heart in two aria-like episodes...A playful, folk-like tune inserted toward the end sealed it with nostalgia. Zhou, 30, was present to receive the crowd’s warm applause."
—The Cincinnati Enquirer
"Zhou Tian’s Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems mixes narration in and out of the instrumental fabric, which in this instance is the Debussian trio of flute, viola, and harp. It’s an unusual but utterly satisfying fusion of French flavors with an American view of a Chinese poem. The interplay is ingenious, at times suggesting a Chinese composer’s quotations of a French composer’s Asian-tinged melodies. The recording is a model of clarity and finely honed balances, and the performers are of a uniformly high level."
"...ravishing, its second movement a gorgeous, impressionistic wallow. The frenzied final minutes reference both Messaien and Lutosławski, before an unabashedly triumphant tonal close."
—The Arts Desk (London), on Concerto for Orchestra
"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."
"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, Examiner.com
"It [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
"…a winning collection of vocal chamber works by Pierre Jalbert, Stacy Garrop, Vivian Fung, Lita Grier and Zhou Tian." - CD of the Week.
(on Billy Collins Suite)
"Zhou Tian's musical setting is the most delicate, lyrical, and beautiful of all the compositions in the Suite and provides a fitting conclusion to the proceedings."
—John J. Puccio, Classical Candor
(on Billy Collins Suite)
“Rarely do I listen to a CD of new works and instantly feel that every work/set is not only masterfully crafted but a true masterpiece; these all unquestionably are.”
—Classical Voice of New England
(on Billy Collins Suite)
"The highlight of this concert was 'Three Songs' by Zhou Tian. 'Wind,' a vocalise accompanied by chords is almost too staccato to be wind, but the singer’s vocal production becomes airy at the end. The color of joy is represented by the liveliness of the antic 'Yellow Bird' and is freely sung with relaxed passion and a light tone. The 'Transience' of a moment is presented simply, a Capella in the first section, and then with lightly flowing accompaniment. This set, sung in Chinese and accompanied by the composer, was the most relaxed and confident on the program, presented without being over-sung, with text and music most commensurate."
"Quite good writing. He is going places."
(on Sonata for Solo Cello "Rhyme")
“'Blowing Westward' by Zhou Tian (b. 1981) is a mesmerizing piece based on an impression of a world described by Chinese writer SuTong. The artist seemed to own the piece technically and emotionally as well"
—New York Concert Review