News - 02 Aug 2022

Introducing 'Crouching Tiger' soloist, Ashley Brown

The first movie I ever bought and first DVD I ever owned was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee. It’s a truly beautiful and movingly-told story. If you haven’t seen it recently, I recommend experiencing it in the original Mandarin (with subtitles) rather than overdubbed, as there’s a musicality to the language, with rhythm and pitch.

The whole story is underpinned, informed and enhanced by Tan Dun’s extraordinary score. Most exceptional is the denouement [I won’t spoil it] which is accompanied by the most exquisite cello solo.

The concerto I’ll play with DSO evolved out of that score and allows Tan Dun’s music to have full focus while still following the narrative journey of the story. At times my cello evokes various different traditional Chinese instruments, such as erhu and guzheng, and there are some ear-bending techniques used to achieve that, like specific intonations, slides and ornamentations, and even the use of a plectrum which is really quite rough on the poor ol’ cello strings!

Similar Chinese folk sounds come from the orchestra too, like representations of Chinese percussion and a dizi (bamboo flute).

Cello and orchestra are in dialogue, sometimes playful, sometimes adversary. At times the cello seems to me to represent a lone, small but stoic voice pitted against the might of an empire.

It’s great to be back playing live concerts again. I’m looking forward to playing with DSO, the home of my first professional orchestra job. And it will be a special privilege to work alongside Umberto Clerici on this project - as a former cellist he instinctively understands the balance and textures between cello and orchestra and that will help us to bring this beautiful story with all its passion, colour and exotic sounds to Dunedin.

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