For the occasion, the TSO played Chinese orchestral music (of course), under the baton of guest conductor Long Yu. And the concert served to illustrate the fact that “Chinese orchestral music” is a multifaceted rubric, held together by the combining of European and Asian approaches to creating music. Indeed, the program exposed both the benefits and the pitfalls of joining East and West in this way.
To my ears, one of the big pitfalls is the tendency for some Chinese composers to conflate simple melodies with big unison gestures. Traditional Chinese music isn’t layered in the way Western music is – yet the simultaneous interplay of different musical ideas is what a Western orchestra is designed to achieve. Committing all the players in an orchestra to a mono-layered idea is impoverishing and weak, no matter how many fortissimos the composer adds to the page.