I won't see "The First Emperor" until January, but I've been keeping an
eye on Tan Dun for many years, so here's my 3 cents on the matter.
[Incidentally, when I asked him what to use for second reference, that
is, if he is Mr. Tan or Mr. Dun, he said "Tan Dun" is correct. The
same goes for pianists Wu Han and Lang Lang... although the matter is
academic in case of the last-named...:)]
Rather than regarding Tan Dun as a consistently great, original composer
or just a successful huckster, I now realize that he is both - that is,
he can be either, depending on the work in question. There is a bit of
the Lang Lang Effect at work here: dazzling and irritating, in turn.
Not sure what the role of the music director or even of the performing
Yo-Yo Ma was, the fact is that Tan Dun's score for Zhang Yimou's "Hero"
is terrific, ranking with the best of the Viennese-Hollywood tradition.
In a different way, but with equal validity, so is his score for "Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon." I already lamented (http://tinyurl.com/ykhd2f)
that Tan Dun did not participate in Zhang's latest, the super-operatic
"Curse of the Golden Flower."
Many of his smaller, more intimate works are truly excellent, such
as the Kronos treatment of "Ghost Opera." I had a hard time, however,
with the gimmicky, overblown "Water Passion after St. Matthew"
(http://tinyurl.com/yz4hk8), and didn't like much "Paper Concerto"
or "Concerto Multimedia."
My take is that the harder he tries for "something big," the poorer the
result. (Which doesn't bode well for "The First Emperor," but I fully
intend to attend with an open mind, and two open ears.)
Related only peripherally, here's a note about the late Stephanie von
Buchau's 1989 "My Favorite Things" desert-island radio show with Alan
Farley on KALW-FM, to be rebroadcast on Tuesday, 12/16, at 7:30 p.m.
PST. Locally, it's 91.7 FM, on the Web: http://www.kalw.org/listen.html.
Happy Festivus, y'all!
[log in to unmask]