Saturday, September 30

Edinburgh International Festival Opening Concert: Buddha Passion – Usher Hall, Edinburgh

This was – A brilliant, joyful opening of the 2023 International Festival

One of the most versatile musicians in the world, Academy-award winning (score to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Tan Dun conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus in the Scottish premiere of his own extraordinary Buddha Passion (2018).

And what an amazing and joyful spectacle this was, which had the massed ranks of junior and adult choristers laughing and clapping, clinking pebbles together, tinkling Chinese bells and singing alternatively between ancient Sanskrit and Chinese. And before them the spectacle of the National Orchestra in full flow.

A very effective subtitling allowed the packed house to appreciate the piece fully. This is a treatise on the joy of life itself, ‘all lives are of equal value from the tiny ant to the giant dinosaur, and of the continuity of life, ‘the tree wants rest, but the wind never stops’.

The play-fullness and joy-fullness is exemplified in the opening to the second half with percussion creating water sounds in a basin using upturned plastic cups accompanied by the tinkling of 100 tiny Chinese bells, like the wind moving through a water garden. This is music made by nature.

Bringing the piece to conclusion is a poignant conversation with Buddha. His disciples ask him,

“Are you god?”, “no, I am not”,

“Are you the son of god?”, “no, I am not”

“Are you sent by god?”, “no, I am not”

“Then, what are you?”, “I am……awake”

At this Buddha closes his eyes and enters Nirvana to a rousing finale, with Tan Dun literally taking to the air on several occasions. Powerful stuff and a fitting end to a wonderful evening.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 5th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.