"The program also included a world premiere by Weijun Chen, who won the 2015 Jacob Druckman prize for the best student work. In its nine minutes, 'Dancer' explored resonant harmonies and sonorities and reflected fine command of orchestration and form."
"The program was so risky, in fact, that the most conventional piece managed to seem exciting and different simply by virtue of its close contact with the Western classical tradition. Chinese composer Weijun Chen's highly polished Dancer, a MATA commission, stood out for the unmistakably Romantic effect of its tonal harmonies and the slow-fast-slow contrast of its form, even though its finely detailed textures often mimicked the chaos of improvisation and indeterminacy. Its overt lyricism also presented a standard by which to evaluate the performers: Marco Fusi's exposed violin playing suddenly seemed wobbly and tentative, compared to the precision and elegance of Burghoff's restrained but expressive cello."
(09/10/2014) Among judges' comments on Distance, the winner of the American Prize:
"Elegantly crafted, with a keen ear for color and effect. A piece that won me over almost completely by the sheer beauty of its language, the careful control of imitative and dramatic elements, and the use of potent consonances. [...] The stunning use of the hymn tune fragments at the end, coming out of a thoroughly contemporary sound world, is deeply affecting. 'Distance' becomes requiem, and elegy. Exceptional, and exactly the right length."
"Chinese-American composer Weijun Chen brought us 'Canoe,' the first of the two prime reasons that the Freya Quartet was justly designated as the core of this disparate concert. By way of introduction, the composer read his own translation of the poem that inspired him, Cheng Gu's poem, 'I Am a Canoe.' With Buckley moving to the second violin, Jason Neukom joined her as the other violin, along with violist Jason Hohn and cellist Katya Janpoladyan. Neukom and Janpolady had the most telling passages when strands of melody broke loose from the quartet harmonies as the score replicated the drift, the loneliness, the longing, the emotion, and the despair of the poem. Toward the end, there were ethereal passages that jumped beyond the template of the poetry and showed that Chen, unlike many of his contemporaries, is unafraid of lingering in intense expression. The episode felt whole before leading, with telling input from Hohn and Janpoladyan, to a desolate calm that hinted at the mystery of Bartók and the bleakness of Shostakovich in their landmark quartets."