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Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 8 PM
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Long Yu
Lang Lang
Xiaoduo Chen
Meng Meng
Nan Wang
Jia Li
Xin Sun
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Long Yu

Long Yu

Lang Lang

Lang Lang

Long Yu, Music Director and Conductor (Read Biography)

Long Yu, Music Director and Conductor


As one of the most distinguished Chinese conductors with an established international reputation, Maestro Long Yu is currently Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and Artistic Director of the Beijing Music Festival.

Besides his concerts throughout the year in China, Long Yu has appeared with a prestigious list of leading orchestras and opera companies around the world, including the Chicago Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the Orchestre de Paris, the Hamburgische Staatsoper, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, the Teatro La Fenice (Venice), the Sydney Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Tokyo Philharmonic, and the Singapore Symphony.

Long Yu was born in 1964 into a family of Shanghai musicians. Music education in his early childhood came from his grandfather Ding Shande, a composer of great renown; he later studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and at the Universität der Künst Berlin.

Long Yu’s career has included both artistic and administrative accomplishments. In 1992, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Central Opera Theatre in Beijing; that same year, he was involved in the planning of the first New Year’s concert in Beijing. He also produced operas for the Urban Council of Hong Kong for five consecutive years.

In 1998, he led the creation of the Beijing Music Festival and became its Founding Artistic Director. Along with numerous performances by world-renowned ensembles and artists, the Beijing Music Festival plays an active role in commissioning new works from today’s most prestigious composers, including Krzysztof Penderecki, Philip Glass, Guo Wenjing, and Ye Xiaogang.

In 2000, Long Yu co-founded the China Philharmonic Orchestra and was appointed its Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. Now entering his ninth season with the China Philharmonic, he has maintained a high standard of orchestral performance and artistic administration. In 2005, Long Yu conducted the China Philharmonic on a 40-day, 22-city international tour throughout North America and Europe. Three years later he brought the China Philharmonic to perform at the Vatican in the Paul VI Auditorium for the first time in history.

Long Yu received the 2002 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award from the Montblanc Cultural Foundation, and in 2003 was named a chevalier (“knight”) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. In 2005, he was recognized with Italy’s L’Onorificenza di Commendatore.


Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is the earliest and the best-known ensemble of its kind in Asia, through which Chinese symphonic music has developed. Formed in 1879 as the Shanghai Public Band, it developed into an orchestra in 1907, and was renamed the Shanghai Municipal Council Symphony Orchestra in 1922. Under the baton of Italian conductor Mario Paci, the orchestra promoted Western music and trained young Chinese talents in this style. It introduced the first Chinese orchestral work to Asian audiences and has been reputed as the “the best in the Far East.” Practically speaking, the history of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra may also be referred to as the history of China’s symphonic music development.

The Shanghai Symphony is now embracing a new era of its history, which spans three centuries. It has held over 10,000 concerts—including premiere performances of several thousand works—and has collaborated with many guest artists of world renown, gaining a reputation as the most authoritative interpreter of Chinese symphonic compositions. The Shanghai Symphony has become increasingly more influential both at home and abroad, having recently completed the audio and video recordings of Zhu Jianer’s symphonies, Tan Dun’s multimedia concerto The Map, and music for the Oscar- and Grammy­–winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, among other projects.

Since the 1970s, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra has toured extensively. In 1990, the orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall; in 2003, it performed in 11 cities across the US; in 2004, it toured Europe to celebrate the Sino-French Cultural Year.

Guangxian Chen, President
Long Yu, Music Director

Yinlin Pan
Pei Li

Associate Concertmaster
Ying Piao

First Violin
Songjie Zhang
Na Huang
Ting Su
Lei Liu
Yi Pan
Xilun Zhang
Wei Liang
Yu Xiong
Lejun Miao
Zhenyu Shi
Wei Wang
Ke Zhou

Second Violin
Xili Wang
Yi Chen
Tao Zheng
Bingke Fang
Yilu Huang
Can Yang
Yun Wang
Lei Huang
Nana Wang
Jingtao Wang
Wenwei Yao
Duo Liu

Zhen Wei
Zhenli Shi
Jiayu Liu
Hong Piao
Linfang Ye
Weiqi Guo
Qi Meng
Xiang Li
Qi Zhang
Yang Guo

Beixing Huang
Lin Zhu
Shaojun Chen
Feng Yan
Yunyan Huang
Xihui Chen
Yue Zhang
Kang Xia
Jinhu Lu
Shujie Wang

Ling Tian
Shunhua Zhu
Ming Zhang
Xudong Qu
Di Wang
Kai Lin
Xiaorui Wang
Jiandong Qi

Zhe Hu
Xiaoyun Gong
Lin Liu

Xin Zhang
Xiaodi Liu
Jingyi Man

Yaoguang Zhai
Yuru Wu
Kun Chen

Zhaolu Liu
Yu Hu
Lu Wen

Yelin Xie
Terence Tan
Zhongbao Guo
Jieliang Shi
Xiaoming Han

Sergey Tyuteykin
Fei Xia
Zhiyi Wang

Jie Hao
Shuang Liu
Qingwen Hu

Alexander Filippov

Xiong Zhou

Chung-Ling Lo
Kai Gu
Qi Fang
Chunli Shi

Lei Chen

Conductor-in-Residence and Piano
Liang Zhang

Vice President
Guoqiang Song
Jinghua Zhou
Ping Zhou

Head of Orchestra
Guoqiang Song
Xingyu Zhou
Tao Zheng

Zhoufeng Deng

Sales and Marketing
Ying Wang
Leilei Cai

Meiyu Le
He Zhou
Baolin Kan
Hengrong Xue
Fengming Lu

Deputy Chief of Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture
Zhaojian Bei

Marketing Director of Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture
Jinxin Li

Lang Lang, Piano (Read Biography)

Lang Lang, Piano


Twenty-seven-year-old Lang Lang continues to play sold-out recitals and concerts in every major city around the world. He is also the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmonic, and many top American orchestras.

Lang Lang began playing the piano at age three and by age five, he had won the Shenyang Competition and given his first public recital. Entering Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at age nine, he won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition, and played the complete 24 Chopin etudes in Beijing Concert Hall at age 13. Lang Lang’s break into stardom came at age 17, when he was called on for a dramatic last-minute substitution at the Gala of the Century concert, playing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

As a further testimony to his continuing success, Lang Lang performed in the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Earlier that year, he was featured at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, pairing up with jazz great Herbie Hancock. In 2009, Lang Lang appeared in Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Most recently, he was chosen as an official worldwide ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Lang Lang is seen as a symbol of the youth and future of China, inspiring over 40 million Chinese children to learn to play classical piano. He has made it his mission to share classical music around the world with an emphasis on training children. In October 2008, he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, with the support of the Grammys and UNICEF.

In 2008, Lang Lang’s biography, Journey of a Thousand Miles (published by Random House in eight languages), was released to critical acclaim. Visit langlang.com for more information on Lang Lang.

Xiaoduo Chen, Soprano (Read Biography)

Xiaoduo Chen, Soprano


Acclaimed soprano Xiaoduo Chen, an active performer in China and around the world, was a prizewinner at Beijing’s 2004 National Singing Competition and at Belgium’s Queen Elizabeth Competition. Ms. Chen won the 2001 Vera Rosa Award for most promising singer in Belgium and also the 2002 “Best New Singer” award in Taiwan. She has performed with the China Philharmonic, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, and at the Central Opera House of China. In 2004, she was asked by China’s Ministry of Culture to serve as a cultural ambassador. She studied at the China Conservatory of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music.

Touring across the US and Canada, Ms. Chen received critical acclaim as the lead role in the musical Terracotta Warriors. She performed at the Gwangju Jungyoulsung International Music Festival in Korea and toured as a guest performer with Italian singer Renzo Arbore. In 2006, Ms. Chen sang the lead role in the Chinese opera Miss Du Shi Niang at the Central Opera House.

Meng Meng, Soprano and Peking Opera Singer (Read Biography)

Meng Meng, Soprano and Peking Opera Singer


Meng Meng, currently a student at the China Conservatory of Music, was admitted to the Shan Dong Opera School at age 12, where she won first prize in the New Talents Cup and second prize in the A Cappella Group competitions.

Ms. Meng has performed in many productions at the Qing Dao Theater and also sang in the Chinese ballet Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua in 2003. She is a first-prize winner of the China Opera Essay Competition.

Singing in Chen Qigang’s symphonic work Die Lian Hua with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Meng performed in Guangzhou, Australia, France, Germany, Belgium, and Egypt.

Nan Wang, Erhu (Read Biography)

Nan Wang, Erhu


Nan Wang began playing the erhu at age six, and studied at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music and at the China Conservatory of Music. Ms. Wang won third prize at the Chinese Traditional Instrument National Contest, second prize at the National Erhu Contest, and the “Prize of Excellence” in erhu performance at the Taipei Traditional Arts Festival.

Ms. Wang has toured Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. She has performed with the China Central Traditional Orchestra, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Central Ballet Orchestra. Ms. Wang has also appeared at the festival La voix du dragon in Paris and was a featured soloist with the Orchestre National de France at the world premiere of Iris dévoilée.

Jia Li, Pipa (Read Biography)

Jia Li, Pipa


Jia Li began playing the pipa at age six, and studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and at the China Conservatory of Music. She has performed at La voix du dragon and Presènce festivals in France, and in a concert series held throughout Asia in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of pipa master Liu Dehai.

Ms. Li was a featured soloist at the premiere of Iris dévoilée with the Orchestre National de France and has performed the work around the world with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.

In 2005, Ms. Li joined a delegation of Chinese artists, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, for an art exchange program with performers from India and Bhutan. She has performed throughout Asia in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau,and Taiwan, and participated in the Kennedy Center’s 2005 Festival of China.

Xin Sun, Guzheng (Read Biography)

Xin Sun, Guzheng


Xin Sun began her zheng studies at age six and studied at the China Conservatory of Music. Ms. Sun won first prizes at the Beijing Youth Chinese Music Contest and the Traditional Chinese Music Instruments Contest, top prizes at the Xing-Hai Cup Chinese Instruments Contest in Beijing, the Long-Yin Cup International Guzheng Contest, and the ART International Folk Instruments Contest.

While still in high school, Ms. Sun co-founded Sheng Lan Qi Xin (“Orchids Seven”), the first chamber music ensemble organized by students in China. She received critical acclaim for her performances at the ROI Productions’ fifth anniversary concert in Hong Kong, Chinese Central Television's folk music concert in celebration of the one-year anniversary of Hong Kong being returned to China, and Beijing Television’s folk music concert in spring 1997. Having toured more than 20 countries around the world, Ms. Sun has performed at the Macau International Music Festival with the Macau Chinese Orchestra and at the Opéra de Lyon in France. Her recordings include San Zhu Xie Yu (Pearls Falling Down), Zheng Zhi Xin Yun (New Tunes of Zheng), and Hua Yu (Whispers of Flowers).

The incomparable Lang Lang joins China’s oldest Western-style orchestra, founded in 1879, for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The program closes with a contemporary Chinese classic, Chen Qigang’s Iris Unveiled.
Piano Concerto No. 2
Iris dévoilée

Program is approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes, including one intermission
(Read the Program Notes)
Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Festival Celebrating Chinese Culture and this evening's performance are made possible by a leadership gift from Henry R. Kravis in honor of his wife, Marie-Josée.
This performance is sponsored by Agricultural Bank of China.This performance is sponsored by Agricultural Bank of China.
View a Slideshow

View an annotated photo album, courtesy of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. »

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Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall
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Watch a Video

Conductor Long Yu on the importance of Chinese orchestras.

Interviews with Lang Lang and Long Yu © 2009 The Carnegie Hall Corporation. Footage of China from the film “Broken Silence” (Directed by Eline Flipse); Footage of Isaac Stern and Beijing Conservatory from the film “From Mao to Mozart” (Dir. Murray Lerner) courtesy of Murray Lerner Films.


Related Essays

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Shanghai Symphony

To trace the rise of Western music in China, one need only examine the 130-year history of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. At the time of its founding in 1879, the Shanghai Public Band, as it was initially known, had no Chinese members or audiences. Established by the Municipal Council—the governing body of Shanghai’s International Settlement—the band comprised about 20 Filipino musicians and a French conductor. By the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, membership had grown to 35, including several European musicians.

World War I took its toll on Shanghai’s musical life, as the Europeans returned home to perform military service. Germans were eventually expelled from the city entirely. The band had no leader for three years until the arrival of the Italian pianist and conductor Mario Paci in 1919. Within three years, Paci had expanded the ensemble, now renamed the Shanghai Municipal Symphony Orchestra. Under Paci’s insistence, Chinese were allowed to attend performances and, more significantly, to perform in the ranks. By the end of the 1920s, the orchestra had become the city’s chief cultural asset, attracting such star soloists as Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz.

Under the Japanese occupation (which extended to the International Settlement in 1941), the orchestra was renamed the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and placed under private patronage. Paci was soon replaced by Arrigo Foa, formerly the orchestra’s concertmaster, who continued off and on as principal conductor for the next seven years.

By 1949, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the orchestra changed its name to the Shanghai People’s Municipal Symphony Orchestra and, later, the People’s Symphony Orchestra of Shanghai. In 1951, the orchestra employed its first Chinese conductor, Huang Yijun, formerly a trumpet player with the orchestra.

Initially under Huang, the 56-member orchestra still employed more than a dozen foreign musicians, most of whom were Russians. In 1953, the ensemble was renamed the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and within five years its ranks were made up entirely of Chinese citizens. The orchestra upheld its mission of promoting international cultural exchange through state performances and international tours.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), Huang was removed, and many of the orchestra’s musicians dispersed to play in song-and-dance troupes. Under Huang’s replacement, Cao Peng, concerts were reduced to a minimum, mostly in factories and the countryside. Once the turmoil had ended, Huang returned to the podium to rebuild the orchestra, remaining until 1984.

First appointed principal conductor in 1984, Chen Xieyang became music director two years later, the first time that a musician rather than a Communist Party secretary was in charge of artistic and business decisions. Under Chen’s 25-year reign, the orchestra has served as a distinguished musical ambassador both at home and abroad as well as on recordings, including the Oscar- and Grammy-winning soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The orchestra’s current Music Director is Long Yu, who begins his inaugural season in fall 2009.

More Modern Voices »

Visit the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra online external link

Focus On: Chen Qigang

As an elder member of the Class of 1978, Chen Qigang was also the first of his class to leave China after the Cultural Revolution. Well before his colleagues at Beijing’s Central Conservatory—Tan Dun, Chen Yi, and Zhou Long—relocated to the US, Chen became the first Chinese composer to be awarded a state grant to study in France. Initially the allure of the opportunity was strictly musical. “The detail and nuance in French music was very similar to my own,” admits Chen, the son of an established Shanghai literati family whose father had been the head of the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts. “I had already discovered Debussy and Ravel on my own. But then I met Messiaen.”

Olivier Messiaen, with whom Chen studied from 1984 to 1988, had a significant influence on the younger composer. “In China, you learn to be sociable, subservient to everyone. If necessary, you must be entirely at the disposal of society,” says Chen, who put that traditional philosophy in practice in 2008 as the music director for the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing. “Messiaen was the first person to tell me you have to be true to yourself. This is fundamental for an artist, but few of us are brave enough to face the truth. It took me many years to discover who I really am.”

In His Own Words

On the Cultural Revolution:

“My father and mother were sent to a labor camp where people from many institutions were interned. I couldn’t visit them for several months. At my music school, there was a lot of violence as well. Many old people were arrested, accused of being large landowners, and beaten to death by students. Some students participated because they came from ‘counter-revolutionary’ families and wanted to prove that they were revolutionary. By 1970 my entire school was sent to barracks south of Beijing for ‘re-education.’ One of my friends, a piano student, completely lost her mind. A teacher also went crazy. One student tried to commit suicide. There was a lot of pressure. I learned a lot from these times. Those who survived can cope with life much better than they could before.”

On writing “Chinese” music:

“In China they always talk about our ‘national style.’ They claim our culture has a longer and more interesting history and is much stronger than Western culture. Yet we have no ‘style.’ That is the paradox …”

“In the West, I have the feeling that they put [us] into a group because we’re exotic. From an artistic point of view, we’re not part of the same group. Aesthetically, we are sometimes complete opposites.”

More Modern Voices »

Program Notes


It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to conduct the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra at the closing concert of Ancient Paths, Modern Voices at Carnegie Hall, along with pianist Lang Lang, as well as many excellent Chinese instrumentalists and vocalists. This marks the second time that the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, with a history of 130 years, performs at this splendid landmark.

Music has always been regarded as a universal language, with musicians being the messengers of friendship and love. One of my most satisfying contributions has been bringing Eastern and Western cultures closer together through this beautiful language. I hope that under my direction this concert will serve as a chance for audiences to not only enjoy a performance by Chinese musicians, but also to experience Chinese contemporary music. Personally, I think that contemporary music—especially Chinese contemporary music—has been of great importance throughout my career. Each time I am on a podium conducting Chen Qigang’s Iris dévoilée—regardless of whether the orchestra is Chinese, American, or European—I am reminded of its artistry as a contemporary masterpiece. I hope this work will delight New York audiences as well, and that it will provoke greater interest in Chinese music.

I look forward to taking the Carnegie Hall audience on this journey—or as Ralph Waldo Emerson said in The American Scholar, to "run eagerly into this resounding tumult."


Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

About the Composer

Few musical careers started so hopefully, or stalled so suddenly, as that of Sergei Rachmaninoff. An extraordinary youthful prodigy, Rachmaninoff entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory at age nine and wrote his first orchestral composition when he was 14. By the time he was 20, he had completed a piano concerto; an opera, Aleko, which was triumphantly produced at the Bolshoi Theatre; several tone poems and chamber pieces; and a number of keyboard works, including the famous Prelude in C-sharp Minor. The stage seemed set for a lifetime of rich musical accomplishment.

Perhaps the brilliance of Rachmaninoff’s early career made the effect of his initial public failure the devastating event it proved to be. In 1897, his First Symphony failed dismally at its debut performance in Saint Petersburg. César Cui, a respected composer and critic, likened it to the product of "a conservatory in Hell." Other commentators were scarcely more kind.

Crushed by this reception, Rachmaninoff fell into an immobilizing depression. He eventually managed to secure a conducting post and performed a few piano recitals. But though committing to write a new piano concerto for a concert tour of England, he composed nothing during the next three years and became so despondent that friends worried for his health.

About the Work

Finally in 1900 Rachmaninoff was persuaded to visit Nicolai Dahl, a doctor specializing in treatment by hypnosis. In his memoirs, the composer recalled the treatment this way: "Day after day I heard the same hypnotic formula while I lay half asleep in Dahl’s armchair: ‘You will begin to write your concerto. You will work with great ease. The music will be excellent.’ Incredible as it may sound, this cure really helped me."

Dahl’s work must be counted the greatest psychiatric success in the history of music. In a short time, Rachmaninoff was again composing, completing his long-delayed Second Piano Concerto. This work was enthusiastically received when the composer performed it in Moscow, in 1901, and he dedicated the score gratefully to Dr. Dahl.

Although the Second Piano Concerto was only the first of a steady stream of works the quite fully cured Rachmaninoff brought forth in the early years of the last century, it has proved among the most popular. With the exception of only the famous Prelude in C-sharp Minor, it became the most frequently performed of his compositions and the principal agent of his fame during his lifetime. It remains a perennial favorite of both pianists and audiences. It is a supremely melodious work, so much so that several of its themes have been used for popular songs. (The concerto itself has served as the soundtrack to several motion pictures.)

A Closer Listen

The first of Rachmaninoff’s captivating melodies is heard in the strings following a brief introduction of pensive chords in the piano. The soulful Russian character of this initial subject is contrasted and complemented by a tender second theme, set forth by the solo instrument.

The ensuing Adagio opens on a note of almost religious tranquility, after which the piano provides delicate accompaniment to a dream-like melody in the flute and clarinet. Toward the end of the movement, there is a flurry of keyboard activity, culminating in a brief cadenza for the soloist, but the music soon returns to the gentle reverie of the opening.

A march-like introduction in the orchestra and glistening figuration in the piano precede the statement of the first theme of the finale, a subject in the spirit of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But Rachmaninoff has saved his trump card, a sensuous melody stated by the orchestra. This theme, which in the 1940s became familiar to millions as the hit song "Full Moon and Empty Arms," returns after an extensive development of the first subject to bring the concerto to an ecstatic close.

Performance Time: approximately 33 minutes

CHEN QIGANG (b. 1951)
Iris dévoilée (Iris unveiled)

About the Composer

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, and the subsequent opening of modern China to international commerce and artistic exchange, a number of Chinese composers have emigrated to the West and achieved notable results as creators of concert music. Some of these composers, such as Tan Dun and Bright Sheng, are known to American concert audiences. Others, especially those who have settled and worked primarily in Europe, are less familiar. Among the latter is Chen Qigang, whose Iris dévoilée forms the second half of this evening’s program.

Chen Qigang was born in Shanghai and subsequently lived in Beijing, where he undertook preliminary studies at the Central Conservatory of Music. Like Tan Dun and Bright Sheng, he experienced the effects of the Cultural Revolution first hand and at the cost of the interruption of his studies. The son of a respected artist and administrator of Beijing’s Academy of Fine Arts, he came from the type of family denounced as "bourgeois" during the radical upheavals that wracked China during the final phase of Mao Zedong’s rule. Chen Qigang was isolated for three years, during which time he underwent "ideological re-education." Not until 1977, when the Central Conservatory reopened in Beijing, did he resume the formal studies he had begun during his adolescence.

In 1984, Chen Qigang moved to France, where he studied with Olivier Messiaen. He subsequently worked at IRCAM, the famed institute founded by Pierre Boulez for exploring and developing new musical resources. His career has since flourished, as indicated by the numerous awards and commissions that he has earned.

A Fusion of East and West

While remaining based in France, Chen Qigang has maintained ties to his homeland, which has honored him with retrospective concerts and a commission to write the theme song for the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. Chinese orchestras and conductors have actively championed his work. Chen Qigang has explored the possibilities of combining Chinese and Western musical practice and traditions. A number of his works use Chinese instruments or make reference to stylistic traits of traditional Chinese musical idioms; Iris dévoilée does both.

About the Work

Iris dévoilée
is a musical portrait—not of a particular woman, but of woman in a universal sense, as a female archetype. Iris is Goethe’s ewig-Weibliche, the "eternal feminine," and the unveiling referred to in the composition’s title is tantamount to her being discovered or revealed. The nine movements of Iris dévoilée, as Chen Qigang explains, portray "nine aspects, nine frames of mind, nine facets of the same woman—changeable, elusive." They form a "mosaic of impressions and tempers, appearances and natures" that aims "to express her unfathomable richness."

That multiplicity of attributes finds reflection in the use of three soprano voices whose singing derives alternately from Chinese and Western practice. One voice delivers texts in the language and style of traditional Peking opera. The others sing wordless vocal lines. The three sopranos have a counterpart in a trio of Chinese instruments—pipa, erhu, and zheng—which augment the Western-style orchestra.

The different aspects of Iris engender a variety of musical expression, ranging from exquisite delicacy to pulsating rhythms, from sensuous languor of a kind occasionally employed by Messiaen to sonic vehemence reminiscent of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Throughout the composition there is an opulence of color and texture unlike anything found in most modern music.

—Paul Schiavo
© 2009 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

© 2001–2009 Carnegie Hall Corporation

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