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PROGRAM NOTES

Asia on Piano


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Program

Asia on Piano

Xiayin Wang, piano
            Recorded in concert March 18, 2010
Jenny Lin, piano
            Recorded in concert April 18, 2011
Quynh Nguyen, piano
            Recorded in concert November 10, 2010

These performances were recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery of Art. This podcast is made possible through support from the Thaw Charitable Trust and by funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

Song (Composer, Performer) Track
Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake (1975)
Composer: Lu Wen-cheng (arr. Chen Pei-xun)
Performer: Xiayin Wang, piano
0:00-3:23
Celebrating Our New Life (1964)
Composer: Zhu Jian-er (arr. Chu Wang-hua)
Performer: Xiayin Wang, piano
3:25-5:20
The Swan (1995)
Composer: Vincent Ho
Performer: Jenny Lin, piano
5:30-15:50
The Willows are New (1957)
Composer: Chou Wen-Chung
Performer: Jenny Lin, piano
13:54-20:10
Three Pieces for Piano
Composer: Tôn-Thất Tiết
Performer: Quynh Nguyen, piano
20:18-28:04
The Black Horse
Composer: Hoang Mi
Performer: Quynh Nguyen, piano
28:05-30:00   

 

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Notes

Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake (1975)
Composer: Lu Wen-cheng (arr. Chen Pei-xun)
Performer: Xiayin Wang, piano
Recorded in concert March 18, 2010

Autumn Moon Over the Calm Lake, a piece from the Guangdong province of China, was originally written by Lu Wen-cheng. Chen Pei-xun transcribed it for piano in 1975, and it became one of his most popular works. The wholly pentatonic harmonies paint a charming Chinese picture of a moonlit lake scene. The melody alternates between the left and right hands, which are independent but harmonious. With frequent arpeggios, broken chords, and crystal-clear musical ornaments, the composer successfully conveys the image of the moon’s shining reflection on the calm lake. View a seventeenth-century Chinese painting by Chen Huan on the same theme. [http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/zoomObject.cfm?ObjectId=22886]

Composer-arranger Chen Pei-xun was born in Hong Kong in 1921. He entered the Shanghai National Music School in 1939, and ten years later he became a professor in the composition department of the Central Conservatory. He taught at the Hong Kong Baptist College (now the Hong Kong Baptist University) in the 1980s.

Celebrating Our New Life (1964)
Composer: Zhu Jian-er (arr. Chu Wang-hua)
Performer: Xiayin Wang, piano
Recorded in concert March 18, 2010

In the 1950s the Chinese composer Zhu Jian-er wrote an orchestral piece for The Great Land Reform, a documentary made by the China News Film Studio. Chu Wang-hua transcribed a section from Zhu’s film music into this short piano piece in 1964. To imitate the glissandi of the banhu (a Chinese two-stringed fiddle), the composer adopted chromatic ornaments. The lively, even scintillating texture is given free rein in this short piece.

The Swan (1995)
Composer: Vincent Ho
Performer: Jenny Lin, piano
Recorded in concert April 28, 2011

Born in Canada in 1975, Vincent Ho is a composer of Chinese descent whose work has been honored by a Fromm Music Commission and by the ASCAP Foundation in addition to organizations and juried competitions in Canada. As the composer-in-residence for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Ho won accolades for his Arctic Symphony (2010). The Swan, his earliest published work, extensively uses inside-piano techniques that explore the range of effects that are available from the keyboard. Ho has written, “Even though this is an early work of mine, it expresses the childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm I had as a teenager when I began my journey into the world of composing.”

The Willows are New (1957)
Composer: Chou Wen-Chung
Performer: Jenny Lin, piano
Recorded in concert April 28, 2011

Even though he worked at the highest levels of the American contemporary music scene, Chou Wen-Chung (born 1923) was at one time an isolated figure as a Chinese composer in the United States. Conductor Leopold Stokowski discovered him not long after Chou’s arrival in the US as a refugee in 1946. Chou became a student and disciple of Edgar Varèse and an early participant in the Electronic Music Center at Columbia University (with Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky). He founded the Center for United States–China Arts Exchange and presented some of the first university-level courses on Asian music in the West.

The Willows are New elaborates on the traditional Chinese melody Yung Kuan, which is part of the ancient and expansive literature for the qin, the Chinese seven-stringed zither. Chou’s treatment of the material takes it through the various ranges of the piano, adding ornaments and tonal colors to suit a personal agenda. Chou has written, “If the Chinese succeeded in assimilating so many musical cultures of divergent origins during the years between the Han and Tang dynasties, I believe we can succeed now in ushering in a new era of world music. Spiritual cultivation and material analysis do not have to belong to two different worlds—because we have only one world to share!”

For a sample of Chinese paintings depicting willows, see http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/zoomObject.cfm?ObjectId=49354
http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/zoomObject.cfm?ObjectId=47170
http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/singleObject.cfm?ObjectNumber=F1916.36

Chu Ky I (Three Pieces for Piano) (1976)
Composer: Tôn-Thất Tiết
Performer: Quynh Nguyen, piano
Recorded in concert November 10, 2010

In Vietnamese, chu ky means “cycle.” The movement presented here is a cycle of seven pieces. Written in 1976, it was commissioned by the French Ministry for Cultural Affairs and was first performed at the Musée Grévin in Paris in 1978 by the Trio de Paris, to whom the work is dedicated.

The composer Tôn-Thất Tiết wrote, “In the universe, human life, the seasons, the movements of the solar system, the stars, the galaxies all evolve in cyclic form, all must submit to universal law, and all of which we are a part. I believe in this law and try to express it in these seven Chu-Ky.” It is thus not surprising to find this music emerge out of silence, drawing the attention of the listener with subtle elements into the interior universe of sound.

Writer Martine Cardieu describes Three Pieces for Piano as “austere, self-contained, melancholic at times, as if laced with memories, immersed in space and silence—maintains a meditative mood, and indeed, meditation, suspension of time, communicate with diaphanous nature—and some mysterious force yonder—remain in the bosom of the music of T. T. Tiết ever most. The finest threads course the invisible. The writing, sparing of means, avoiding any effect, any artifice, draws lines pure enough to sear a question, to evoke in us a concern. Time is otherwise here: it is grasped, lived. The musician becomes one with it. No agitation, no haste, but the slow willingness of the soul.”

Tôn-Thất Tiết is best known for composing the scores for Trần Anh Hùng’s three acclaimed feature films: The Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo, and The Vertical Ray of the Sun. He also collaborated with French choreographer Régine Chopinot on two of her dance pieces: Parole de feu (1995) and Danse du temps (1999). In 1993 he founded the France-Vietnam Music Association to promote the development of traditional music in Vietnam. Born in Huê in central Vietnam in 1933, Tôn-Thất Tiết went to Paris in 1958 to study composition at the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers were Jean Rivier and André Jolivet. He was at first drawn to the serial technique, but from 1966 on he turned to other modes of inspiration. In fact, Tôn-Thất Tiết’s music has a special language in which both oriental and occidental trends are fused, although the inspiration and thoughts are drawn basically from Asian sources. This is obvious in many of his works, such as Kiem Ai (Universal Love, 1978) for choir and orchestra, The Game of the Five Elements (1982–90), Prajna paramita—the basic sutra of Buddhism—for six voices and instrumental ensemble (1988), and Chu Ky, the series of seven instrumental pieces heard on this podcast.

The Black Horse
Composer: Hoang Mi
Performer: Quynh Nguyen, piano
Recorded in concert November 10, 2010

Hoang Mi’s The Black Horse is based on a Vietnamese folk song titled Ly Ngua O, about a bridegroom readying his horse and carriage to bring his bride home. The piece uses the pentatonic scale.

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Performers

Xiayin Wang

Xiayin Wang has appeared as recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral soloist, and she has achieved a high level of recognition for her commanding performances. The New York Times cited her “estimable grasp of pianistic color,” and the Washington Post called her “a paragon of virtuosity.”

In 2009 Naxos released Wang’s third CD, which debuted on Billboard’s classical album chart. Also that year Wang performed at the new Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Included in her program was the world premiere of Enchanted Garden, Preludes Book II by Richard Danielpour. Her recording of it for Naxos was released in 2011.

Wang was presented in recital as part of the Prestige series at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes College of Music in New York. In 2007 she made her orchestral debut at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium, performing the Schumann Piano Concerto and Ravel’s Concerto in G Major with the City Symphony under conductor George Manahan. Other recent performances have included appearances with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra under Philippe Entremont, the St. Petersburg State Academic Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional, and the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. Wang performed in 2010 with Cuarteto Latinoamericano in the Festival Cervantes (Mexico), celebrating Schumann’s 200th anniversary.

Wang began her piano studies in China at the age of five. She graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory and immigrated to New York in 1997. Three years later, in 2000, she was awarded a certificate of achievement by the Associated Music Teacher League of New York, which provided her an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. Xiayin Wang holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and professional studies degrees from the Manhattan School of Music, where she also won the Eisenberg Concerto Competition in 2002 and received the Roy M. Rubinstein Award.

Jenny Lin

Jenny Lin is widely admired for her ability to combine classical and contemporary literature in adventurous programming. Her concerts have taken her to Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Kennedy Center, Miller Theatre, MoMA, the Whitney Museum, (Le) Poisson Rouge, the National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Spivey Hall, Salle Cortot, and Victoria Hall, as well as to festivals around the world, including the Chopin Festival in Austria, the Flanders and Ars Musica festivals in Belgium, and the Shanghai New Music Festival in China.

Her extensive discography includes critically acclaimed recordings on Hänssler Classic, Koch/E1, BIS Records, and Sunrise Records. Classics Today praised her album of Shostakovitch’s 24 Preludes and Fugues as “hands down the finest version of this massive work”; the CD was voted Best of 2009 by the Washington Post. AllMusic Guide raved, “The 11th Finger (Ligeti, Tenney, Vivier) is a thrill ride for musical adventurers” and “Lin’s playing is nothing less than superhuman.” Lin’s orchestral engagements have included Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with the Collegiate Chorale and American Symphony; Valentin Silvestrov’s Metamusik with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Garden of Spain with La Orquesta Sinfónica de Gijón; Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso no. 1 with SWR Rundfunkorchester; and the world premiere of Stefano Gervasoni’s Piano Concerto with Orchestra Sinfonica Nationale della RAI.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Austria, Lin studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and with Dominique Weber in Geneva. She has also worked with Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, and Blanca Uribe as well as at the Fondazione Internazionale per il pianoforte in Como, Italy. She holds a bachelor’s degree in German literature from Johns Hopkins University. Lin lives in New York City, where she also teaches at the 92nd Street Y.

Quynh Nguyen

Quynh Nguyen has performed throughout the United States and Europe as a soloist with the Humboldt University Orchestra, the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, the Bellflower Orchestra, the Brentwood-Westwood Symphony Orchestra, the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra, and the Regional Wind Orchestra of Paris. She has won the Artist International Presentation Competition and the International Piano Concerto Competition in San Francisco. In addition, she has been featured on the cable television program “Grand Piano” as well as on television programs in Japan and Vietnam.

Born in Hanoi, Nguyen was admitted to the Hanoi Conservatory of Music at the age of six. She performed her first recital at age eight and had her orchestral premiere three years later. At age thirteen she received a scholarship to study piano performance at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow. Nguyen graduated from the Juilliard School and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from the Mannes College of Music. Her scholarships and awards include the United States Presidential Academic Excellence Award and a Fulbright Fellowship to study music in Paris. She earned her doctorate of musical arts degree at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and she is currently on the music faculty of Hunter College.

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The Credits

Podcast, texts, and slideshow coordinated by Michael Wilpers, manager of public programs. This podcast is made possible through support from the Thaw Charitable Trust. Audio preservation and editing of this recording were supported by funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. The three concerts excerpted on this podcast were presented as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series.

Thanks to Andy Finch and SuMo Productions for audio recording and editing, Nancy Eickel for text editing, Torie Castiello Ketcham for web design, and especially the artists for granting permission for this podcast of their performances at the Freer Gallery.

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