Idees, Pensee, Muses sur la musique & theatre

Category Archives: Music

From the same creative team that gave you “The Alan Gilbert and the Grand Macabre” show, New York Philharmonic presents you the CONCERT CAB featuring Principal Oboe Wang Liang and Assistant Timpani Kyle Zerna.

 Taking a cab inNew Yorkwill never be the same after this…


Lang Lang was invited to play at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, and Telegraph was not happy about it. James Rhodes asked in the paper: “Why was there no British pianist at the Jubilee concert? Lang Lang playing butchered Gershwin isn’t good enough.”

 Technically, Lang Lang wasn’t the only performer from a non-Common Wealth country in that concert. Renee Fleming and Stevie Wonder were the other two. (Fleming sang from the balcony of the Buckingham Palace nonetheless!) But I guess since they are from the America, which was a former British colony, we’ll let it pass.

I understand Mr. Rhodes’ frustration. Is the Jubilee Concert supposed to be a showcase of British talent? Arguably so. Are there good British pianists? Surely there are. But is there another pianist who is also a household name worldwide? Arguably not.

Rhodes suggested three other British pianists – Stephen Hough, Paul Lewis and Benjamin Grovesnor. He also suggested that the reason they were passed over was that Lang Lang has a big record company (Sony) with better connection and deep packet. I’m not too sure about that. I think the simple reason is that Lang Lang is more entertaining than anyone else: Just look at the way he dressed – faux military ceremonial suit – and the way he selectively played only the flashiest parts of two two pieces – Hungarian Rhapsody which sequed into Rhapsody in Blue.

It’s clear this is not the occasion to be subtle and understated but to make the biggest gesture on an outdoor stage where tens of thousands of people congregated to be entertained. To suggest this four-minutes performance could have been an advocacy for the classical music is hoping for too much – even for a queen.

Lang Lang had a very busy weekend. (So, what’s new?) On Friday (May 11), he received a Degree of Doctor Musical Arts, honoris causa from the Manhattan School of Music. The next day, he played a sold-out recital (again, what’s new?) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Neither Puccini nor Verdi was on the program. Instead, Lang Lang played Bach, Chopin and Schubert. The same program will be repeated later this month at Carnegie Hall.

The Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang 葉小鋼 has been awarded this year’s John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships for his cantata Twilight of Tibet. The work was inspired by his many trips to Tibet since 1985. He talked about how intensely spiritual the Tibetan culture is and how it changes the way he sees the world in his statement of the piece. He also said that music can heal the deepest wounds, alleviate the worldly pains and restore confidence for the desperate. “It is one’s hardest thing to keep a conversation with life and voice his independent and responsible attitude.” It is the sincerest wish from a serious composer.

Twilight of Tibet is a large-scale work, requiring not only an orchestra, but a chorus and eight soloists. The world premier is now set in Beijing in October.

Ye Xiaogang belongs to the post-Cultural Revolution generation of composers. His peers (in many cases, his classmates at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music) includes Tan Dun, Chen Yi, Guo Wenjin and Chen Qigang, among others. Many of them went overseas to study after college. Ye came to New York– first to Eastman, then to NYU. But he went back after getting his degree, much earlier than most of his peers did. He is now the vice-chancellor of the CCOM. He is also a very prolific film scorer and have composed music for dozens of films.

As the New York season draws to the end, festivals start to arrive. One of them is the first Queens New Music Festival, which will put on 9 concerts and showcase 12 world premieres in four days (May 10 – 13).

Mo Suo’s Burial Ceremony, a woodwind quintet by the New York-based Chinese composer Xinyan Li 李昕艷, is one of the pieces that will be performed.

Posted on Li’s Website:

Mo Suo’s Burial Ceremony was composed in 2006. Inspired by the unique funeral customs in Mo Suo, a Chinese southwest minority, this wood quintet depicts Lama’s reciting scriptures to release souls from purgatory, Daba monks’ dancing to expel ghosts, as well as Lama’s cremating corpse which are tied up like a fetus into a wooden cage for reincarnation. I tried to create various colors and dramatic tension and express the touching emotions. In this work, winds are considered human beings’ voices that contain joy, sadness, anger, and fear etc. They cry, they laugh, they talk and they dance. In addition, this work is based on three pitches—B, C, and F, initials of Burial, Ceremony and Funeral. The first and last note both use C, which symbolize a life cycle.


Not every pianist who played on the Carnegie Hall stage is Horowitz or Lang Lang. But then, Horowitz probably never knew how to read someone his Miranda Rights! Chris Yip葉家傑 is that rare combination – a bona fide NYPD police officer and a serious pianist. It is more remarkable that he turned to piano only after he earned his police badge!

This started several years ago when he was still a rookie officer. His patrol area included the Brooklyn Music School in the Fort Green neighborhood. He would pass by the school everyday, hearing the music wafting out from the building while keeping his eyes on any suspicious activity on the street. One day, he decided to check out what’s inside and ended up sitting down on a piano bench with a teacher.

It is not an easy task to learn piano as an adult, as any piano teacher will tell you. But when there’s a will, there’s a way. Yip has persevered and is now one of the star alumni at the Brooklyn Music School. He will play at the school’s centennial benefit concert on May 5. Wouldn’t it be fun if he played in his uniform!

The New York Times reviewed the piano recital of the “Chinese-born, 28-year-old American pianist Jenny Q Chai”. Chai, a co-founder of Ear to Mind, a New York organization that introduces audiences to contemporary music, played Debussy, Ligeti, Messiaen, Marco Stroppa, Gyorgy Kurtag and Schumann in her Zankel Hall recital.

I missed the concert so I checked out the Ear to Mind Website. It looks like they’re still working on it. How difficult is it to be a musician in New York today! It’s not enough just to “Practice. Practice. Practice.” They also have to know Web design, marketing and PR. But it’s rewarding to be able to play the music you like to an audience who appreciates it.  

Chai splits her time between New York and Shanghai. More and more America-trained Chinese musicians have moved back to China, where there is a growing demand for classical music. Let’s hope we can still hear them in New York!