Sunday, April 22, 2012

Orchestral & Choral Music of Chen Yi: The Program

New Horizons Music Festival
Monday April 23 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Capriccio (2000)
University Singers

Chen Yi: “...inspired by the folk tune on the bagpipe that I heard from the lawn outside of the Nelson Gallery, and the wild singing sound of the Asian folk choral music,” it was written for the Kansas City 150th anniversary celebration.                                                                                 

Jing Diao (2011) Full Orchestra
Humboldt Symphony

“Jing Diao” in Chinese means a Beijing Opera tune. Composed to celebrate the farewell season of Gerald Schwarz as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, this work is barely a year old.

  Chen Yi: “I would like to use the energetic ‘Jing Diao’ to symbolize the high spirit in the meeting of East and West. Jerry’s vision and leadership in American new music brings our creative arts to the whole new world!”

Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings: “This is an exciting piece with a real sense of celebration. Gerald Schwarz really is a hero to new composers—not many symphony orchestras feel they can afford to do new work and still sell tickets. But he always managed to put a modern work on his program.”

Romance and Dance (1998) Two violins and string orchestra
Humboldt Symphony
with soloists Terrie Baune and Cindy Moyer

The first movement (“Romance”) comes from an earlier work, “Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in,” written for western instruments to reproduce the sound and styles of the traditional Chinese instruments, hsiao (a vertical bamboo flute) and ch’in (a two thousand year old Chinese zither,) often played together.

Of “Dance,” the second movement, Chen Yi said: “The image came from the dancing ink on paper in Chinese calligraphy and the fiery moving gestures of the Chinese ancient women dancers.”

Paul Cummings: “The first movement begins slowly, then becomes much more agitated before a very quiet ending. The second movement is the Dance, so naturally it’s livelier. But the Chinese folk music influence is clear in both movements."

"One of the interesting features of the second movement especially is the composer’s use of string textures, with devices like collegno, which is playing with the stick of the bow. The end of this movement has unison passages as well as highly contrapuntal passages, creating fascinating textures."

"Our soloists are Cindy Moyer and Terrie Baune. We’re excited to have Terrie involved because she played on an earlier version of this work, and she’s a good friend of Chen Yi.”

Spring Festival (1999) Wind Ensemble
Symphonic Band

“The pitch material in Spring Festival is drawn from a southern Chinese folk ensemble piece, “Lion Playing Ball.”

Paul Cummings, Symphonic Band conductor: “Chen Yi wrote this for an organization called Bandquest, which asks modern composers of note to write music that is accessible for young people. Though young people can play it—high school players for example—it does have its challenges, and it’s interesting for college players and for audiences.”

China West Suite: two piano version (2007)
Daniela Mineva, John Chernoff

The authentic folk music from China West “amazed and inspired” the composer to create this suite, first for wind symphony, and then this two-piano version. There are four movements, drawn from the folk songs Gadameiln and Pastoral of the Meng people; Ashima of the Yi People; Du Mu and Amaliehuo of the Zang People; Dou Duo and the Lusheng ensemble music of the Miao People.

Suite From China West (2005)
Symphonic Band

Having played the first two movements in its February concert, the Symphonic Band plays the entire original wind orchestra suite. Paul Cummings: “ This is music in a very modern idiom with lots of dissonance, but it is not atonal. There’s a tonal center in just about everything we’ve encountered. There are unusual timbres and rhythms, and unusual instruments--at least for us—and unusual orchestration, like a technically difficult passage in the third movement that has piccolo playing with orchestra bells. But the effect is very much of a hybrid Chinese and American music, which seems fitting since Chen Yi grew up in China and received her first musical training there, but she has been living and teaching in the United States for quite a while now, so she’s got these two cultures in her consciousness.”

Photos top to bottom: Harley Muilenburg and University Singers, violinst Cindy Moyer, violinist Terrie Baune, conductor Paul Cummings.

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