GUO WENJING     郭文景


GUO Wenjing is currently a professor at the Composition Department of Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China.  He has created a variety of works including 4 operas, music for 3 new Peking Operas, 5 concertos, 3 symphonies, 2 symphonic poems, 1 symphonic overture, 3 grand works for traditional Chinese instruments, 4 string quartets, and over 20 works for chamber music and a cappella chorus.  He has also scored for more than 40 feature films and TV series, including Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles directed by ZHANG Yimou.


Guo Wenjing was born in 1956 in Chongqing, an ancient city of China’s mountainous Sichuan province, and the resulting combination of urban tension and regional folklore in his formative years has fused together into a highly distinctive compositional voice.


In 1978, Guo was one of a hundred students admitted out of 17,000 applicants to Beijing’s re-opened Central Conservatory of Music.  Unlike many colleagues from this acclaimed class (Tan Dun, Chen Yi, Zhou Long), Guo remained in China after graduation except for a short stay in New York (on an Asian Cultural Council grant) and has spent little time outside his home country.


Guo’s prolific output includes the internationally acclaimed chamber operas Wolf Cub Village (1994) and Night Banquet (1997-98/2001).  The former, based on Lu Xun’s  Diary of a Madman, was premiered at the Holland Festival, and after a subsequent performance in Paris, Le Monde compared his “masterpiece of madness” to Berg’s Wozzeck and Shostakovich’s The Nose.  Night Banquet, inspired by a painting about the Song dynasty court official Han Xizai, was first produced at the Almeida Theatre (London) and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.  A subsequent production, premiered at the Paris Autumn Festival, has also appeared at the Berlin, Lincoln Center, and Perth International Arts festivals.  In October 2003, both operas received their Chinese premiere at the 6th Beijing Music Festival, directed by Lin Zhaohua of the Beijing People’s Art Theatre.  Guo’s recent chamber opera output include Mu Guiying (2003) and Hua Mulan (2004), new Beijing operas directed by Li Liuyi that premiered at the Beijing Capitol Theatre, and Fengyiting (2004), written for Peking Opera tenor and Sichuan Opera soprano, premiered in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.


Critics from many countries have responded to Guo’s “unparalleled musical beauty and dramatic power” (Le Monde), and found his work “pungent and vivid” (The Guardian), “uninhibited and pure” (Het Parool) and “subtle and unusual” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), with the composer “showing his credentials as a man of the theatre” (Financial Times) with “a highly original sense of operatic possibility” (The Independent).


Guo’s music first became known in the West in 1983, when his Suspended Ancient Coffins on the Cliffs on Sichuan premiered in Berkeley, California.  The piece clearly salutes Bartok, highlighting two solo pianos with a battery of percussion instruments, but the strong imprint of Guo’s own Sichuanese roots is unmistakable in the orchestral writing. Shu Dao Nan [“Hard are the ways of Sichuan”] (1987), a symphonic poem with voices, is a setting of Li Bai’s poetry, which the official People’s Music Publishing House selected as part of its series “Twentieth-Century Distinguished Chinese Classics.”  Chou Kong Shan [“Sorrowful, Desolate Mountain”] [Guo Wenjing cont.]


(1992, rev. 1995), a concerto for Chinese bamboo flute, was premiered by the Goteborg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden under the baton of Neeme Järvi. Guo’s other orchestral works include concertos for violin, cello, and harp. His most recent work, written for soprano and orchestra, Journeys, was a commission premiered by Edo de Waart and the Hong Kong Philharmonic in October 2004. The text for Journeys was taken from epic poetry by contemporary Chinese poet Xi Chuan.


Apart from his chamber music for traditional western string quartets and percussion ensembles, Guo also has composed Late Spring (1995) for Chinese ensemble and Sound from Tibet (2001) combining instruments from China and the West.  Among his most performed chamber works are Drama (1995, a trio for three percussionists who also speak and sing), Inscriptions on Bone (1996, for alto and 15 instruments), and She Huo (1991, for eleven players), and Parade (2004, a sequel to Drama, for three percussionists).


At home, Guo has been honored as one of  the Top 100 Living Artists of China.  Abroad, his works have been featured at festivals in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris, New York, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Turin, Perth, Huddersfield, Aspen, Hong Kong and Warsaw, and at such venues as the Frankfurt Opera, Berlin’s Konzerthaus, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Lincoln Center.  He has written works for such internationally distinguished ensembles as the Nieuw Ensemble, Atlas Ensemble, Cincinnati Percussion Group, Kronos Quartet, Arditti String Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Goteborg Symphony Orchestra, China Philharmonic Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.


The former head of the composition department of the Central Conservatory, where he still remains on the faculty, Guo maintains a busy schedule as composer and educator. Recent compositions include a concerto for erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle) co-commissioned by Bavarian Radio’s longstanding concert series “Musica Viva” and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and Poet Li Bai for Central City Opera. Both works received their premieres in 2007. He is currently working on a work to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Italy’s unification, “Risorgimento”, commissioned by Casa Ricordi to be performed at the Settembre Musica Festival in Turin.