On January 29th (with a repeat performance on the 30th), Petra van der Heide will give the European premiere of Chinese composer Tan Dun's new harp concerto, with the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam. "Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women" is a co-commission from Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Concertgebouw, and has already been performed with harpists Risako Hayakawa in Tokyo, and Elizabeth Hainen in Philadelphia.
A "symphony for thirteen micro films, harp and orchestra", Tan Dun's piece is inspired by Nu Shu, a disappearing language with a long vocal tradition created by women for women in Hunan, China in the 13th century. It was, the composer's website goes on to explain, "created during a time in China when only men received any kind of formal education, and women were kept illiterate. Nu Shu was passed on through the generations from grandmother to granddaughter, aunt to adolescent niece, mother to daughter. It is the only known language that is gender specific, used and understood only by women. It has also only recently been exposed to the modern world.