XIAOGANG YE (b.1955): Basong Cuo for Zeng and 5 Players, Op. 65, Colorful Sutra Banner for Piano Trio, Op. 58, December Chysanthemum for Flute and Piano, Op. 52, Namucuo for Piano, Op. 53, Hibiscus for 6 Players, Op. 48, San Die for Zheng and Flute, Op. 7a.

Catalogue Number: 07W062

Label: Delos

Reference: DE 3559

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: The composer is an important figure in Chinese musical culture and pedagogy, and if his name seems oddly familiar, it was his piano concerto "Starry Sky" that was played by Lang Lang at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. That occasional piece was obviously geared towards a wide audience, but from this collection of chamber works, all but one written slightly earlier, he has a gift for remaining approachable in pieces espousing a more personal philosophy and musical language. The predominant impression in all these compositions is of a neo-impressionistic sense of delicacy of outline and the skillful application of instrumental colour. The most recent piece is Basong Cuo, which prominently features the Chinese Zheng, an ancient, large, plucked zither, alongside a small Western ensemble. The title refers to one of the holy lakes of Tibetan Buddhism, both the scenery surrounding it and the feelings it evokes. The composer speaks of an evolution in the style of his more recent works, and this piece has a degree of instrumental exuberance, dynamism, and polyphonic intricacy that contrasts with the emphasis on atmosphere of earlier pieces. Sutra banners are the strings of prayer flags found in Tibet, and the delicate, fluttering trio "reflects both the beautiful Tibetan landscapes as well as the spiritual philosophy and beliefs of the Tibetan people". December Chrysanthemum was written in memory of the composer’s deceased daughter, and represents a beautiful flower withering in snow, still retaining its delicate, unearthly beauty. Its sentiments of deep sorrow are buried in the gentle formality of a nature scene, like an image of the snow-covered landscape masking the death of the flowers beneath. Namucuo is one of the three holiest lakes in the Tibetan tradition. The piece evokes the tranquil yet profound feelings induced by the lake and its mountainous surroundings, and the piano writing has some echoes of the visionary ecstasy of Messiaen's elevated harmonies. Hibiscus depicts the flower, "one of the most meaningful flowering plants in the eyes of Chinese literati through the ages", in various forms, stages and meanings. This piece, from 2005, has more of a sense of Western structure than the others here, in an attractive, colourful and airy work that provides an ideal introduction to the composer’s æsthetic. San Die (1986) was originally for shakuhachi and koto, and the composer produced this version in 2007, to highlight the contrast between a traditional instrument and a western one, both sonically and in playing style, and philosophically; "the zheng embodies the Eastern stylization of ease and comfort, while the flute evokes the inner heart’s sadness and tension" in the composer’s words. Les Temps Modernes; Fabrice Pierre.


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