Like the ethnomusically minded central European composers he admires, Bright Sheng deftly remolds into western European frameworks folk elements from his native land. Many of the tunes he now uses as building materials were collected when he lived in the northwestern provinces of China during the Cultural Revolution. When Sheng finds an emotional context for his experiments, as he did with the orchestral tearjerker Lacerations, the effect is both striking and refreshing; even when he doesn’t, his work rises above tone-painting chinoiserie. Now the composer-in-residence at the Seattle Symphony (he held that post two seasons ago at the Lyric Opera), Sheng lately has been fiddling around with Chinese folk melodies based on a seven-note scale, which is familiar to the Western ear but rare in Asian music. In his most recent work, Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet, written for the distinguished Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, he has reinvented some of these tunes for Western instrumentation. The question that remains to be answered: Has their Asian quality been lost in the process? Soloist in this Chicago premiere is the society’s David Shifrin; his sidekicks are the equally accomplished violinists Ani Kavafian and Mark Peskanov, veteran violist Walter Trampler, and cellist Gary Hoffman. The program also includes Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, Debussy’s Premiere rhapsodie for clarinet and piano, and Faure’s Quartet for Piano and Strings in C Minor. The pianist is Lee Luvisi. A 7 PM talk by Sheng precedes the concert. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Harry Heleotis.