Idees, Pensee, Muses sur la musique & theatre

Tag Archives: New music

New York Philharmonic announced that San Francisco-born composers Anthony Cheung is one of the three composers who will share The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic at the request of inaugural recipient Henri Dutilleux. The Kravis Prize for New Music is bestowed every two years for extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music, and French composer Henri Dutilleux was named the first recipient in 2011. Dutilleux decided that he would share the $200,000 award with three composers, each of whom would write a work to be performed by the Orchestra in his honor.

Born in 1982 in San Francisco, Anthony Cheung is a composer and pianist. As a performer and advocate for new music, he is artistic director and pianist of the Talea Ensemble inNew York. His music has been performed by the Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Linea, Musiques Nouvelles, Chicago Symphonyʼs MusicNOW, Dal Niente, International Contemporary Ensemble, Minnesota Orchestra, French National Orchestras of Lille andLorraine, Orchestra of the League of Composers, and eighth blackbird. Current projects include a Tremplin commission for the Ensemble intercontemporain and a Koussevitzky Foundation commission for the Talea Ensemble, both to premiere in 2012.

Cheung received his bachelor’s degree in music and history from Harvard University and his doctorate from Columbia University, where he taught and served as assistant conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra. Most recently, he was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Cheung will spend the 2012–13 season inRomeas a recipient of the Rome Prize, and he will begin a teaching appointment at theUniversityofChicagoin 2013.


The composer Matt Van Brink posted a very interesting article on NewMusicBox about his participating in this year’s “The Intimacy of Creativity,” a chamber music workshop program in Hong Kong created by Bright Sheng 盛宗亮. Sheng lives in Flushing and has been very active in New York’s music scene. He has done a lot of programs with the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts. But I didn’t know of this one in Hong Kong.

The program adapts the workshop model common in theater and literary world to the creation of chamber music. Young composers present their works in front of experienced composers and student performers, who in turn give feedback. Van Brink write, “[f]or the composers, the open discussion and rehearsal of our music compelled us to see our own works more objectively, opening the door to revision. For the performers, it was an opportunity to engage and connect with the works, and to pass along that excitement to the audience.”

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.


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!

OPERA America‘s Salon Series is presenting “An Evening with Wang Jie” today. Wang Jie has been living and working in New York for several years now. Her opera Nannan was featured in the New York City Opera‘s VOX series several years ago. I havn’t heard too much of her since then. Tonight provides another opportunity.

 Featuring selections from the vocal and instrumental works of composer Wang Jie performed by soprano Mary MacKenzie, mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann, violinist Jennifer Choi and the composer at the piano. The program includes:

Serenade in Isolation
A Prayer — Lord? Please Don’t Let Me Die in a Funny Way (libretto by Paul Simms)
From the Other Sky, Scene II — Human World (libretto by Wang Jie)

This is Wang’s bio from her Website:

Born in Shanghai shortly after the Culture Revolution, Ms. Wang was raised during an era of breathtaking eco-nomic expansion. She was a known piano prodigy by the age of five. A scholarship from Manhattan School of Music brought her to the US where she began her composition studies under the tutelage of Nils Vigeland and Richard Danielpour.

While a student at Manhattan School and later the Curtis Institute of Music, her tragic opera NANNAN was showcased by New York City Opera’s annual VOX festival. This led to the production of her chamber opera FLOWN, a meditation on lovers who must separate, by Music-Theatre Group. The Emily Dickenson inspired song cycle I DIED FOR BEAUTY was featured at the opening ceremony of Beijing Modern Music Festival. Her piano trio SHADOW dramatizes the inner life of an autistic child. It was featured by the New Juilliard Ensemble at the Museum of Modern Art and was subsequently presented by Continuum at Merkin Hall’s “China in America”.

There was a time when Chinese American composers all came out of the Columbia University. No More. Today’s Chinese American composers come from everywhere and with varying backgrounds. Qin Yi, a Shanghai-born and Shanghai-studied composer, has a commission by the MATA Festival. Her new work will premier at this year’s Festival on April 18 at Roulette in Brooklyn.

Her piece is written for the Quartet New Generation (QNG), a recorder collective from Berlin. According to Qin, with an all recorder ensemble, the sound produced has a very harmonic timber. It’s almost like each sound is the “shadow” of the other sounds. That’s why she named the piece “Shadows of the Music”.

It sounds like a perceptive observation coated in a poetic metaphor.