"Qu Xiao-song’s music has a crystal clarity and a love which embraces
the magic cantilena handed down by Feldman, Takemitsu, Messiaen, Debussy,
Chopin, Schubert and Mozart. Qu’s voice speaks softly in a world which has
little time to revere silence and beauty. His music is as necessary for
our sense of well being as it is for the continuation of the most elevated
traditions themselves which he clearly respects."
- Roger Woodward
Reviewers remark on the synthesis of the old and the new in Qu Xiao-song's music. From Hong Kong's Dagong News:
"[He] brings Chinese music into a new era which is both ancient and modern....
His music is sober but at the same time emotional, deeply expressing the original vitality of the folk life and folk arts.... There is no doubt that he is going to be a master figure among Chinese composers."
His economy of means is illustrated in a review of his opera The Death of Oedipus: "Qu succeeds with one
single line in evoking a vast musical landscape."
Born in 1952 in southwestern China, Qu Xiao-song was sent to the countryside for four years during the Cultural Revolution, where he worked as a farmer. He then taught himself the violin and became a violinist and violist with a
Peking opera orchestra in his home town. He graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1983, and in 1989 was invited by Columbia University to be a visiting scholar, supported by a grant from the Cultural Council. Following his work at Columbia, he settled in New York City.
Qu has received commissions from the Holland Festival,
The Swedish Folkopera, the Kunsten Festival of Arts, The Hibiki Hall Festival
(Japan), The Hong Kong Instrumental Orchestra, Boston Musica Viva, and
The Nieuw Ensemble (Holland), among many others. His works range from
a guitar solo written for Kazuhito Yamashita through percussion ensembles
and mixed chamber ensembles to orchestra works and operas. Qu Xiao-song's
chamber opera The Test (2004) was commissioned by the Munich
Biennale and Contemporary Opera Berlin, and staged in both cities in May
2004. Life on a String was co-commissioned by the Kunsten Festival in Brussels,
the Paris Autumn Festival, and the Marstall in Munich. All three have
performed the work in 1998 and 1999; further performances take place in
Amsterdam, Lisbon and Edinburgh. Qu's earlier operas, Oedipus and
The Death of Oedipus, were premiered to acclaim in 1993 and 1994
respectively, in Stockholm and Amsterdam.