Marimba Concerto

Princess Chang Ping - Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet

Princess Chang Ping was based on the final theme from the Cantonese Opera, Di Nü Hua, by Tang Ti-sheng. It is a melody my grandmother sang to me as a child; therefore in my heart it is more a folk song than an art song. It is a semi-fictional story about the Ming Dynasty Princess Chang Ping and her lover Zhou Shixian. The princess met Zhou and fell in love, but they were separated in war as the Manchurian army overthrew her father’s kingdom. She then became a nun, but eventually met Zhou again when they were both captured by the new regime, which granted them marriage. As an act of loyalty to her father and faith to her lover, she chose to end her life with Zhou by drinking poison wine at their wedding. In the end, they became a pair of flowers and their spirits rose up to heaven to rejoin her family.

The composition is loosely programmatic; focusing primarily on the complicated emotions at the wedding. To a certain extend, the marimba soloist represents the main protagonist, Princess Chang Ping.

Listen to audio clip of Princess Chang Ping (Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra)
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Available for sale is the piano reduction version. For Orchestral Score and Parts Rental, please contact pius@piuscheung.com.

Solo Marimba

Ballade for Eriko Daimo
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Ballade for Eriko Daimo (for solo marimba) was written in May 2005. I met Eriko in 2003 at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival, and was immediately captured by her playing, which I find very dramatic, exploring both the delicate and the organ-like grand sound of the marimba. Since then, we have grown to be very close friends, therefore I decided to compose a piece for her that describes her personality in the way she has reflected herself to me. Structurally, this piece consist of two contrasting subjects, first of which is slow, mellow and in major, second of which is fast dramatic, and in minor (based on Eriko Daimo’s initials D# E).

~ ca. 11 mins.

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Play sound clip performed by Eriko Daimo
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Classical Sonata
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Classical Sonata (for solo marimba) began as a composition exercise to write in the style of Beethoven. Needless to say, this work can in no way be compared to the genius of Beethoven. It is merely my humble tribute as a composer and marimbist to one of the greatest geniuses in the history of music.

Structurally, this piece follows the traditional sonata form, which of course is one of the biggest trademarks of the era. The work is in four movements. First, in sonata-allegro form; Second, is slow, singing, and elegant; Third*, a short scherzo; Fourth, also in sonata-allegro form with a short glimpse of the first movement in the middle. The entire work is about 23 minutes long.

* The Third movement was added after the premiere of the work, where I performed it in a special tribute concert held by the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra.

~ ca. 23 mins.

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Etude in C Major
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
This piece is one of three pieces that was awarded the Classical Marimba League Prize. My plan is to write a set of twenty four etudes, one in each key, in the future. Despite the fact that these pieces are ‘etudes’, they are not ‘exercises’ for mere technical practice. They are each short pieces of individual musical moments.

Etude in C major (for solo marimba) is a soft and simple song, much like a Schubertian song for voice and piano.

~ ca. 6 mins.

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Play sound clip
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Etude in c minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
This piece is one of three pieces that was awarded the Classical Marimba League Prize. My plan is to write a set of twenty four etudes, one in each key, in the future. Despite the fact that these pieces are ‘etudes’, they are not ‘exercises’ for mere technical practice. They are each short pieces of individual musical moments.

Etude in c minor (for solo marimba) is designed for octave practice. Much like a Liszt etude, this piece is quite virtuosic. Though the music was intended to be rather angry in nature and virtuosic, it should always still sing.

~ ca. 5 mins.

Pius Cheung

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Etude in c# minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Etude in c# minor (for solo marimba) was composed in 2008 and premiered by myself at the 8th International Marimba Festival in Chiapas, Mexico. Though it was not my original intention to compose it as part of a set of three etudes along with Etude in d minor and Etude in D Major, perhaps because I wrote them all in the same week, these three pieces work quite well together as a three movement Etude Fantasy.

Just as my previous etudes are, this piece is part of my project to compose 24 of such works, one in each key. And despite the title of ‘etude’, it is not just a mere technical exercise, but a short musical moment. The tone of this piece is quite sad and somber, exploring the potentials of the marimba to ‘sing’ in a lyrical and dramatic way.

~ca. 4 mins.

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Etude in Db Major
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
This piece is one of three pieces that was awarded the Classical Marimba League Prize. My plan is to write a set of twenty four etudes, one in each key, in the future. Despite the fact that these pieces are ‘etudes’, they are not ‘exercises’ for mere technical practice. They are each short pieces of individual musical moments.

Etude in Db major (for solo marimba) is a short operatic aria for solo marimba, similar to the italian operas by Puccini.

~ ca. 4 mins.

Pius Cheung

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Etude in D Major
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Etude in D Major (for solo marimba) was composed in 2008 and premiered by myself at the 8th International Marimba Festival in Chiapas, Mexico. Though it was not my original intention to compose it as part of a set of three etudes along with Etude in d minor and Etude in c# minor, perhaps because I wrote them all in the same week, these three pieces work quite well together as a three movement Etude Fantasy.

Just as my previous etudes are, this piece is part of my project to compose 24 of such works, one in each key. And despite the title of ‘etude’, it is not just a mere technical exercise, but a short musical moment. Though it is one of my more technically challenging pieces, one needs not to loose sight of the long singing lines and the dance-like rhythmic feel which hold the composition together.

~ca. 5 mins.

Pius Cheung

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Etude in d minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Etude in d minor (for solo marimba) was composed in 2008 and premiered by myself at the 8th International Marimba Festival in Chiapas, Mexico. Though it was not my original intention to compose it as part of a set of three etudes along with Etude in c# minor and Etude in D Major, perhaps because I wrote them all in the same week, these three pieces work quite well together as a three movement Etude Fantasy.

Just as my previous etudes are, this piece is part of my project to compose 24 of such works, one in each key. And despite the title of ‘etude’, it is not just a mere technical exercise, but a short musical moment. The focus of this piece is on the lyricism of music and of the marimba.

~ ca. 4 mins.

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Etude in e minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Etude in e minor (for solo marimba) is dedicated to Edward Aldwell, my theory/Bach teacher while I was at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was a man of few words, but all of them were important. His teachings were always witty, but extremely intelligent. During one of our discussions about music, and knowing that I have always had self-doubt about my own compositions, he told me, “Don’t be afraid of how other people judge your music. Just write whatever comes to your heart.” That, coming from one of my most respected musicians in the world, all of a sudden sparked something in my mind, and I just sat down and wrote this etude. Compositionally, this piece is very simple, but it is one of my most honest works.

Edward Aldwell passed away in 2006.

~ ca. 4 mins.

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Play sound clip performed by Eriko Daimo
Five Pieces
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Five Pieces for solo marimba is a set of five miniatures dedicated to five good friends of mine who are also marimbists: Nancy Zeltsman, Yuko Yoshikawa, Eriko Daimo, Fumito Nunoya, and Jonathan Singer. Each piece is a short glimpse of how these great marimbists has appealed to me as a performer.

These pieces were my first attempt at twelve tone music. The tone row for these pieces is comprised on three sequences of four note motifs/cells, which can also be found in many of my other works. Though these pieces are ‘twelve tone’, I don’t consider them as ‘atonal’, since my treatment of the twelve tone row is quite tonal.

~ ca. 5 mins.

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Play sound clip – I – Theme
Play sound clip – II – Dance
Play sound clip – III – Aria
Play sound clip – IV – Interlude
Play sound clip – V – Lament
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Musical Moment No. 4
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Dance of the Golden Mean (for solo marimba) is the fourth of a set of five Musical Moments written during my years studying at the Curtis Institute of Music. All five Musical Moments are based on the same four note motif. This piece is four voice fugue. Structurally, it is very traditional. It starts with an exposition section where the subject is presented in all 4 voices. Then a development section where the subject and counter-subjects evolve. At the point of the golden mean is the return of the exposition, but this time the subject is inverted. Ending with a short coda.

Though intended for solo marimba, this piece can also be performed with a marimba duo, trio, or quartet, splitting the voices between players.

~ ca. 4 mins.

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Play sound clip
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Musical Moment No. 5
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Romance is the fifth of a set of five Musical Moments (for solo marimba) written during my years studying at the Curtis Institute of Music. All five Musical Moments are based on the same four note motif. Originally written for a string orchestra, I later transcribed this piece for solo marimba so I can perform it myself. Therefore when performing this piece, player should always keep in mind long luscious legato lines.

This piece was recorded on Nancy Zeltsman’s album, Sweet Song.

~ ca. 6 mins.

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Play sound clip
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Nocturne in F Major
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Nocturne in F Major was written while I was living in New York. In a city that never sleeps, I find myself constantly surrounded by sound, whether it is subway noises or the polyphony of loud music on the streets. While some people thrive on the intense and busy tempo of life in New York, it did not quite fit my personality. Therefore, this nocturne (night music) is in a way a reflection of my need to find inner peace.

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Nocturne in f minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Nocturne in f minor is my second attempt at nocturnes. It came to me during a sleepless night when numerous ideas and feelings, musical or not, were coursing through my mind sporadically. As such, the music represents an almost schizophrenic state of mind, going in and out of reality and a dream-like state. It is in a way the exact opposite of my first nocturne, which alludes to a peaceful state of mind in the busy city of New York, while this one represents an unsettled state of mind in the quiet city of Eugene, Oregon.

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Nocturne in Gb Major
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Nocturne in Gb Major came to me as a simple improvisation. To me, the key of Gb major is the warmest of all 24 chromatic keys. Especially on the marimba with its complex overtones, the key of Gb major simply sounds like a hug to me. I wanted to embrace this warmness through a simple piece that is sincere from the heart in the most direct way.

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Preludes in A Major & a minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
One of my long term projects is to compose 24 preludes for solo marimba. These preludes are designed to be intermediate concert pieces that fit within the range of a 4.3 octave marimba. Though technically easier than most of my other compositions, these character pieces offer the same level of musical and artistic depth while providing the player a platform to focus on important musical subjects such as tone color control and phrasing.

Prelude in A Major use one of the most common mallet permutations for the marimba, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1. However, it is important for the player to not treat this piece as an exercise, but instead focus on subjects such as the voice leading (melody, bass, middle accompaniment), harmonic progression and phrasing.

~ ca. less than 1 min.

Prelude in a minor is based on a 7 note motif, E-F-G-E-D-C-B, that is presented in the melody. The motif is subsequently inverted and retrograded in its entirety. Underneath that is a bass line that simply descends chromatically from the Bb below middle c to the low A of a 4.3 octave marimba. The challenge of this piece would be to maintain a long legato line on the marimba, and to control a melody that weaves up and down between the top and bottom voices.

~ ca. 3 min.

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Prelude in g minor
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
One of my long term projects is to compose 24 preludes for solo marimba. These preludes are designed to be intermediate concert pieces that fit within the range of a 4.3 octave marimba. Though technically easier than most of my other compositions, these character pieces offer the same level of musical and artistic depth while providing the player a platform to focus on important musical subjects such as tone color control and phrasing.

Prelude in g minor is a waltz in rondo form. Although this piece is only about 2 minutes long, the character changes rather quickly and in extreme between sections.

~ ca. 2 min.

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Sonata in c, Vitanata
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Sonata in c, Vitanata (for solo marimba) was written in 2005 for my performance at the Fifth International Marimba Festival in Mexico, where I premiered the work. “Vita” is latin for life. This piece is programmatic, not in the sense of there being a story behind it, but that it depites the essence or journey of life as I see it. The entire piece is based on one short motif which circles around the interval of a third. This motif is introduced as the second subject of the first movement.

The entire work is in four movements. The first is in traditional sonata-allegro form. The second is an intimid nocturne based on the theme-motif, with reminiscence of the first movement in the middle. The third is a scherzo-like fugue, the subject of which is also derived from the theme-motif. The fourth is a slow chorale which begins as a tragic requiem representing death, but transforms into a peaceful hymn of the theme-motif, representing life after death, Utopia.

~ ca. 30 mins.

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Play sound clip – I mvt (1)
Play sound clip – I mvt (2)
Play sound clip – II mvt
Play sound clip – IV mvt

Arrangement for Solo Marimba

Flight of the Bumblebee
NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Flight of the Bumblebee (composed by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov) is a very standard virtuosic encore piece on most instruments. In my arrangement, I decided to add some octaves, octave displacements and bass lines to feature 4 mallet marimba playing to its fullest advantage.

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Vocalise
NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Vocalise, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is one of the most popular songs ever composed. It has been arranged for numerous instruments in many different keys, and most people have heard it either knowingly or otherwise. In my arrangement, I have chosen to retain most of the melody and basic harmony, but changed almost everything else from the original. For instance, I transposed it from the original c# minor to a minor, which I feel is more comfortable on the marimba, and also changed the original eighth note based accompaniment to quarter note based. These are not arbitrary decisions, as I have done another arrangement that stayed closer to the original. However, the result to me was less than satisfactory. It turned into a piece where the marimba is ‘trying’ to be a piano and voice unsuccessfully. Therefore, I decided to try as best as I can to absorb the genius composer’s original intentions, and reworked it with voice-leadings and accompaniments that I feel work better for the marimba, truly turning it into a piece for my instrument. The end result is this arrangement, which I hope still retains the original simple beauty of Rachmaninoff.

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Verano Porteño
NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Verano Porteño (Buenos Aires Summer) is part of a set of four tangos compositions by Astor Piazzolla called Estaciones Porteñas or The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. My arrangement for solo marimba originally began as a transcription of Piazzolla’s own recording with his quintet. However, the deeper I delved into Piazzolla’s recordings of his own music, the more I realized that being one person with limited experience with the tango genre, I will never be able to compare up to the original. Therefore, I decided to take more of an arrangement approach, taking the original theme of the piece and improvising with it on the marimba until I found something comfortable.

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Arrangement for Marimba Duo

Rhapsody in Blue (marimba duo)
NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin is a timeless American classic. This version for marimba duo is slightly shorter than the original. The arrangement consists of a combination of adapting from the original and new materials based on Gershwin’s themes.

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Verano Porteño (marimba duo)
NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
Verano Porteño (Buenos Aires Summer) is part of a set of four tangos compositions by Astor Piazzolla called Estaciones Porteñas or The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

Pius Cheung

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Solo Percussion

Nian 2 (multiple percussion)
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
The word 念 (pronounced Nian) has multiple meanings depending on the context the word is used in or the prefix it follows. Examples of what it could mean are reminisce, meditation, meaning and sense. To me personally, the word connate a state of spiritual inner peace and awareness, while being in harmony with and connected to everything around us past, present and future. It is somewhat related to Buddhism philosophies of letting go of the idea of ‘self’ and that time is linear. Of course this piece has a physical beginning and an end, but my idea was to try to capture the concept of circular time/structure, where there is no beginning or end, only a state of ‘being.’ This was the inspiration for this piece.

念2 is the second piece for multiple percussion I have composed, the first being Ojo, which my good friend, Casey Cangelosi, and I co-composed. It is preceded by a mallet sextet I composed in the summer of 2013 titled, 念. Compositionally, the piece is divided into three sections. The first section utilizes only bass drum, somewhat in the fashion of traditional Chinese drumming or Japanese odaiko drumming. The second section is slow and felt mostly without an obvious pulse. It begins with long quiet notes on cymbals and gongs, while the rest of the drums join in later with snippets of motifs derived from the first section. The third sections develops various motifs from the first section, though this time in a style one might consider closer related to western contemporary music. The piece ends with the rhythm of the opening six measures in retrograde, finishing with a long crescendo roll on large gong.

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Nian 3 (solo bass drum)
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
The word 念 (pronounced Nian) has multiple meanings depending on the context the word is used in or the prefix it follows. Examples of what it could mean are reminisce, meditation, meaning and sense. To me personally, the word connate a state of spiritual inner peace and awareness, while being in harmony with and connected to everything around us past, present and future. It is somewhat related to Buddhism philosophies of letting go of the idea of ‘self’ and that time is linear. Of course this piece has a definite beginning and an end, but my idea was to try to capture the concept of circular time/structure, where there is no beginning nor end, only a state of ‘being.’

念3 (Nian3) is scored for solo bass drum. It is preceded by Nian2, which is scored for 6 drums and 6 cymbals/gongs. In Nian3, I wanted to experiment with expressing musical/artistic depth through a limited palette of instrumental color. This piece compositionally/technically works on any drum. I just personally prefer the depth and resonance of a bass drum. Like Nian2, which shares the same rhythmic subject, Nian3 shows Asian musical influences on the surface, but the core of the music is quite deeply rooted in western musical structure. For instance, measure 19-57 is built on a 4 voice canon of the main rhythmic subject.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of my father-in-law Yasuo Daimo.

Pius Cheung

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Percussion Ensemble

Nian 3 (bass drum trio)
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
The word 念 (pronounced Nian) has multiple meanings depending on the context the word is used in or the prefix it follows. Examples of what it could mean are reminisce, meditation, meaning and sense. To me personally, the word connate a state of spiritual inner peace and awareness, while being in harmony with and connected to everything around us past, present and future. It is somewhat related to Buddhism philosophies of letting go of the idea of ‘self’ and that time is linear. Of course this piece has a definite beginning and an end, but my idea was to try to capture the concept of circular time/structure, where there is no beginning nor end, only a state of ‘being.’
There are two versions of 念3 (Nian3), one for solo bass drum, and one for bass drum trio. In this piece, I wanted to experiment with expressing musical/artistic depth through a limited palette of instrumental color. Compositionally/technically, it works on any drum. I just personally prefer the depth and resonance of a bass drum. This piece shows Asian musical influences on the surface, but the core of the music is quite deeply rooted in western musical structure.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of my father-in-law Yasuo Daimo.

Pius Cheung

Performance Notes:
1) The number of times some measures are to be repeated is flexible. Player repeat lower or higher than the indicated range if the desired musical flow is achieved.
2) Phrasing and slurs are left out for most of the score on purpose. Player should be creative in finding ways to interpret the micro and macro phrasing.
3) Similarly, exact beating spots on the drum is not indicated. Player should be creative in experimenting with different beating spots to explore different tone colors,bring out the desired voice-leading, phrasing and musical effects, like one typically would on a snare drum.

Duration: 7-8 minutes

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Tesla's Harmony (mallet quartet)
Composer's NotesAudio ClipVideo ClipMusic Sheet
The ‘mad scientist’, Nikola Tesla, who is famously known for inventing the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, has always been a character of fascination to me. Stories of his public demonstrations with electricity and the iconic pictures of him sitting in a room with huge lightning bolts coming from his Tesla coils are inspirations of Tesla’s Harmony. The music depicts what I imagine as a dance of electrical light. While the electrical lights are awe-striking and intense, at the same time they can be seen as being in perfect balance/harmony with everything that is around.

This piece is scored for mallet percussion quartet with some auxiliary instruments.

Player 1 – 5 octave marimba
Player 2 – 5 octave marimba
Player 3 – 4 octave vibraphone, brake drum, low tom and kick drum. (If a 4 octave vibraphone is unavailable, player may opt to either omit or transpose the notes in brackets by an octave. Low tom and kick drum may be substituted with medium tom and low tom.)
Player 4 – 3 octave vibraphone, marimba (shared with Player 2), optional crotales

Duration: ca. 8 minutes.

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