Press / Reviews

Hauntingly beautiful and sonically colorful...
- Review of Liang's YUAN by Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times

Liang's music is deeply philosophical, yet sensual, evocative, yet abstract, and disciplined, yet spontaneous.
- Yayoi Uno Everett, Liner Notes (Mode Records)

by George Varga, San Diego Tribune, December 3, 2019.

Liang is receiving the Grawemeyer, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize for music, for his 15-movement concerto “A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams.” It began in 2013 as an electronic music piece before being transformed into a solo piano work and, ultimately, a 30-minute orchestral opus that he likens to “painting” music “with a sonic brush.”

Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times

By Lara Pellegrinelli, The New York Times, November 15, 2016.

by Lara Pellegrinelli, Harvard Magazine, January-February 2016.

Lei Liang's Xiaoxiang, a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, is not the virtuosic tour de force one might expect of a saxophone concerto, a form showcasing technical skill. Liang’s starring instrument trembles, croons, and cries, traversing the unsettling musical landscapes.


The concert culminated with a performance of Liang’s evocative and spacious Aural Hypothesis. In many ways, this is a piece that exemplifies Liang’s expert synthesis of numerous musical influences with non-musical conceits.

-Kurt Rohde, Sequenza 21

One of the most exciting voices in New Music... Liang is an important musical philosopher, coming into mature expression.

- Brian Morton, The Wire (UK)

What raised the evening [Shanghai Quartet and pipa master Wu Man at Freer Gallery] out of the ordinary - far, far out of the ordinary - was composer Lei Liang, who brought pipa and quartet together in a work so brilliantly original and inarguably gorgeous that the two may never be the same...Liang’s Five Seasons, a sonic tour de force from a composer not yet 40.

- Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post

A highlight [of New York Philharmonic's Contact!] was Lei Liang's Verge for 18 strings. With musicians divided into four sections arranged spatially across the stage, Liang builds on the concept of lines converging and diverging across several sections.

- Brian Wise, The Strad

Not only is Lei Liang one of the important Chinese composers of the new generation, he is also a fine example of something Chou Wen-chung calls for: the rebirth of the venerable wenren tradition – the tradition of the artist/scholar.

- Edward Green, Contemporary Music Review

Lei Liang's YUAN is a 15-minute tour de force: a dense example of profound cross-culturalism.

- James M. Keller, Chamber Music

Lei Liang is the most interesting member of the Chinese new wave, of whom Tan Dun is the best known. These pieces are theatrical, engaging yet intensely thoughtful...A deeply personal art of memory.

- Andy Hamilton, The Wire (UK)

Lei Liang’s magnetism lies in the ways in which traditional elements become more abstract as they blend into western music without giving any hint of exoticism but as one’s own personal language, which produces a sublimated world of oriental sound.

- Yuki Kakiichi, The Record Geijutsu (Japan)

[Verge] is extremely beautiful music versus extremely fast music. The piece is also unusual in the way that it's set up - it's for 18 string players grouped in four quartets, and then, on the left and right, double basses.

- Magnus Lindberg, Time Out New York

Liang’s masterly sense for texture and shape, as well as a quirky rhythmic pattern, give these pieces substance and quiet sinew. Resolutely modern and original, there is little that is routine or meek about the music of Lei Liang. It is a strong cup of coffee, indeed. For those inclined to excitement and stimulation in their music-making, his is an important young voice.

- Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine

Tremors of a Memory Chord, scored for piano and grand Chinese orchestra, is a revelation. The combination of high-modern textural effects and the slightly alien (to Western ears) sonorities of Chinese instruments is at times unearthly, like tape music from one of Stockhausen’s especially extra-terrestrial moods, and at times positively uncanny, as if the Chinese musical tradition had been melted down and poured into surreal new shapes, while yet retaining familiar features of the original style. The performances are, without exception, stellar. But they’d have to be: Lei Liang’s scores seem to demand one delicately constructed dramatic gesture after another. Stephen Drury’s Callithumpian Consort scintillates in the brilliantly colored Aural Hypothesis for small ensemble, and Five Seasons stars Wu Man, rockstar of the lute-like Chinese pipa, alongside the Shanghai Quartet. Passionately, but precisely, these interpreters make a powerful case for Lei Liang as a composer with the ears and the ingenuity to construct a boundless, and boundlessly thrilling, new music.

- Daniel Stephen Johnson, New York Public Radio WQXR Q2 “Music Album of the Week” (Dec 24, 2012)

Lei Liang’s music transcends nationalism. This disc [Brush-Stroke] embraces a broad vision of attributes that are quintessential to Asia, encompassing those of Japan, China, and Mongolia.

- Kazushi Ishida, The Record Geijutsu (Japan)

Gobi Gloria is a work to be reckoned with on many levels—perhaps the most intricate and persuasive work [on Telarc Records album “Dim Sum”].

- Steve Ritter, Audiophile Audition

Liang brings an astonishing range of influences and techniques to bear on a highly individual but always arresting compositional style. His pieces may be inspired by a dream of the Emperor Yang, calligraphy or painting, but they all gently invite you into an intriguing, endlessly fascinating place where you won’t just encounter Liang - you’ll find out something about yourself as well.

- James Chute, San Diego Union-Tribune

Mr. Liang offered painterly evocations of motion and mood.

- Steve Smith, The New York Times

The music of Chinese composer Lei Liang is immediately distinctive due to its lack of cliché. He begins with the music of his roots, far from cosmopolitan, and explores the netherworlds of these sounds.

- Dan Albertson, La Folia

Gobi Gloria, written by Lei Liang, was especially arresting for its simplicity, soulfulness and sheer beauty.”

- Harvey Steiman, Aspen Times

[The Meridian Arts Ensemble] began with Lei Liang's Ascension, a frenetic work that explores the sonic virility of each instrument.

- Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee

Lei Liang's Verge is a gripping and engaging work for 18 solo strings, which are taken full advantage of in their timbre and potential for sound. There is a visceral energy that is intense and can sometimes be overwhelming. A mix of the bright and vibrant with the dark and ominous makes for turbulence. Aural Hypothesis goes beyond intense to frightening, the excellent balance of timbre giving point to the composer's gestures. The music here [on Naxos] stands out among many new records for its vitality and directness, but has staying power beyond music that exists on the surface only.

- George Adams, The American Record Guide, May 2013

Having the greatest impact aurally and visually was the premiere of Lei Liang’s Peking Opera Soliloquy.

- Jackie Lamar, The Saxophone Symposium

[In] Liang's YUAN...these games of allusion are only the pretext for a rich expressive journey, in this case one centered on a Yao folksong heard in the soprano part. In fact, YUAN is equally noteworthy for its wide emotional range. Liang parts ways decisively with the idea...that the medium's affective horizon is intrinsically limited to qualities like vim and vigor, verve and vivaciousness. Together with Liang's Memories of Xiaoxiang, for alto sax and tape, YUAN reflects on the violent legacy of China's Cultural Revolution - an extremely personal subject for the composer. That Liang finds the saxophone an apt conduit for these poetic impulses may be traceable back to his biography: he did not grow up in the West, and hence may be less predisposed to hear the instrument through the filter of its pop cultural resonances.

- Matt Mendez, The New Music Box, June 10, 2015

I do not know any other Chinese composer capable of embracing his past from a global and transcendental perspective, overcoming outdated watertight compartments, understanding today’s music as a free space where, with the aid of talent, everything can be made fit.

- Ismael G. Cabral, Chorro de luz [Spain]

Fresh, imaginative, steeped in tradition but thoroughly contemporary, [Liang's] music has an immediate, nearly irresistible appeal. His 'Verge Quartet' received its world premiere and, though only about 11 minutes long, had an almost epic feel. Steeped in traditional Mongolian music, and tied to the birth of the composer's son, 'Verge' seemed to shift effortlessly among musical worlds, its feathery atmospherics, percussive slaps, sliding glissandos and driving rhythms all integrated into a work of convincing unity and purpose.

- Stephen Brookes, May 1, 2015, The Washington Post

Liang’s music is sophisticated, complex at times, but never fails to be immediate in expressive meaning. This accessibility, together with the detailed craftsmanship makes his music special.

- Bert Van Herck, Zeitschichten

What is retained from his previous discs is the consistently beautiful sonority - refined and gentle - and the music's skillfully controlled dynamic development...Aural Hypothesis is articulated by explosive piano passages emerging suddenly from calmly sustained notes and interweaving glissandi. It is particularly remarkable for the subtle changing gradations of pitch and of timbre.

- Yuki Kakiichi, Record Geijutsu [Japan], March 2013

Lei Liang underscores [the San Diego policewoman in chamber opera Cuatro Corridos] with unexpectedly subtle and colorful instrumental textures and focused drumbeats that use powerful eloquence to reveal, astonishingly and brilliantly, an unrelenting tragedy with no resolution.

- Mark Swed, on chamber opera Cuatro Corridos, Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2013

Liang's compositions take compellingly contrasting paths. Rooted in Chinese and Western music, his stuff is prickly but has heart. We need that, y'know?

- Mark Keresman, ICON

I was captivated by the Trio of Lei Liang...

- Paul Hertelendy, Arts San Francisco

Gobi Gloria is especially interesting in that the instruments frequently do not accompany the primary melodic line, but create rhythmic underpinning or additional melodic layers, often with varying speeds and textures.

- Art Lange, Fanfare

In his 'YUAN for saxophone quartet, Lei Liang chillingly embodies the ghost with unearthly-sounding saxophones, seemingly blowing just behind a dark canopy of trees. The piece is a highlight of 'Antiphony' [Innova Records].

- Doyle Armbrust, Time Out Chicago

Lei Liang’s Gobi Gloria…reveal a conscious blending of sounds, techniques and ideas from traditional Chinese music with the string quartet of the Western classical tradition. This delightful and innovative music brings a fresh perspective, suggesting intriguing possibilities for the future of the string quartet.

- New Classics, Chamber Music (UK)

[Mode Records MODE 210] is a splendid compilation which should delight, in part or whole, everyone who comes across it. This disc is recommended not to miss!

- Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers

Lei Liang presently enjoys a growing reputation as one of the country’s most energizing young composers.

- David Denton, David’s Review Corner

Serashi Fragments featured the Arditti Quartet and it is only 7 minutes, yet extremely intense for its duration. From sparse moments to fractured shards, this music is demanding to the musicians as well as the listeners.

- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

[In Lei Liang’s Five Seasons,] the evocation of water dripping and splashing was delightful...the falling leaves and the drumming sounds were astonishingly vivid. Indeed, one could count this the hit of the evening.

- Jan Narveson, The Record

['Milou'] is a disc to play and play again.

- Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers

YUAN, for saxophone quartet, and the Harp Concerto are especially convincing works, both for the fascinating soundworlds they conjure up and their intensely dramatic development. A broad assortment of performers brings earnest commitment and inventive musicality of Liang’s complex scores.

- Stephen Eddins, All Music

Lei Liang is a composer with a remarkable poetic sensibility.

- ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Audio Portraits

For a composer with imagination and a sharp ear for synchronicities and contrasts, personal roots can be very fertile ground as a launching pad for startlingly fresh new music. Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang serves as an excellent example…In use of space and sound, calm and agitation, solo and tutti, the two traditions [East and West] are not nearly as far apart as one might think, at least in Liang’s singular musical vision.

- Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

Lei Liang’s Trio was a compelling piece…The ethereal, abstract sonorities it created on piano, cello, and percussion at the beginning and end had little to do with the modal middle section that not only evoked dance rhythms, but itself danced.

- Jonathan Wilkes, San Francisco Classical Voice

Lei Liang’s Gobi Gloria is remarkable for its expressive range, creating a feeling of vastness of space and timelessness that are appropriate to its subject, the great desert of Mongolia.

- New Classik Reviews (Atlanta Audio Society)

Liang’s haunting Gobi Gloria featured spectacular, declamatory passages, which the Ying performed with passion and grace.

- Tamara Bernstein, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Underneath Liang’s exquisite and unadorned melodies, there is a wealth of timbral nuances… During a time when most contemporary music seems to alienate the audience, such elegant and tranquil music surprises and refreshes the listeners.

- Ban Lixia, Renmin Yinyue [People’s Music Review]

[Lei Liang’s Memories of Xiaoxiang] is emotional, dramatic, easily understood and felt by the audience. The response was overwhelming.

- David Raymond, The Saxophone Journal

In his works, the audience savors the charm of the music of the literati. His music is both audacious and delicate; it is modern, yet a traditional spirit seeps through tenaciously. It poses a true challenge to our ingrained musical thinking.

- Xie Jia-xing, Yinyue Zhoubao [Music Weekly]

Lei Liang rejects the habitual imitation of Chinese musical features. Instead, there are ghostly weepings and prolonged silences. The many technical clichés of modern music are purged completely.

- Xia Yan-zhou, Yinyue Shenghuo [Musical Life]

The shock brought by Lei Liang to the Chinese musical scene was expressed in elegance and modesty.

- Ming Yan, Renmin Yinyue [People’s Music Review]

Haunting originality.

- Review of Lei Liang's Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo by Larry Wallach, New York Arts Net, July 8, 2013

Nobody writes music like Lei Liang.

- Review of Lei Liang's Trans by James Chute, San Diego Union Tribune, Feb 4, 2014