Artist is composer-in-residence of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra April 29-May 10

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Chen Yi, one of the brightest stars among Chinese composers on the international scene today, was in town during the week of April 29 – May 10 as the composer-in-residence of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.  Her residency was made possible through Music Alive, a residency program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer.  The Orchestra presented the world premiere performance of her work, Prelude and Fugue for Chamber Orchestra, on April 30 and repeated the performance twice in the following week.

Artist is composer-in-residence of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra April 29-May 10

Chen Yi, one of the brightest stars among Chinese composers on the international scene today, was in town during the week of April 29 – May 10 as the composer-in-residence of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.  Her residency was made possible through Music Alive, a residency program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer.   The Orchestra presented the world premiere performance of her work, Prelude and Fugue for Chamber Orchestra, on April 30 and repeated the performance twice in the following week.

Chen Yi is widely known for combining Chinese and Western traditions in her works, transcending cultural and musical boundaries in the process. Her music reaches a wide range of audiences and inspires people of different cultural backgrounds. In Prelude and Fugue for Chamber Orchestra, she incorporates three familiar Chinese folk tunes (Summer Thunder, Prancing Horses, and Racing the Dragon Boat) into the traditional western structure of prelude and fugue. She added Chinese wood blocks and cymbals to the western orchestra and taught the western cello to sing like the Chinese er-hu. The result was a most pleasing and exciting work, evocative of Chinese music yet full of textural and musical complexities more associated with new western music.

This was Chen Yi’s fourth appearance in the Twin Cities.  In 2001, she was part of the historic world premiere concert, Hún Qiáo, [Bridge of Souls], A Concert of Remembrance and Reconciliation, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, to commemorate WWII in Asia. Her work for this concert, Ning, (a word that means both Nanjing and Peace) has been performed throughout this country numerous times since then. It has garnered critical praise from all major music critics, including this one from Allan Kozinn of The New York Times: "Ning by Chen Yi, used (violin, cello, and pipa) in a melancholy and sometimes terrifyingly visceral evocation of China during World War II. A traditional song Jasmine Flower, is buried and fragmented within the work's textures."

On another previous occasion she was commissioned by the American Composers Forum in St. Paul to write a work for their celebrated BANDQUEST series of music for young bands. Her work, Spring Festival, is one of the more popular pieces in BANDQUEST because it brings to life the Chinese Folk Song Lion Playing Ball in a form easily accessible by young players. She revisited this work recently with the Apple Valley High School’s 9th grade band. She spoke at length with the students about her experiences as a child during the Cultural Revolution and answered many questions about that period in Chinese history as well as what it meant to be a composer. “Chen Yi is a dynamic and engaging personality,” reported John Nuechterlein, President of the American Composers Forum. “We were thrilled she was willing to take time from a busy schedule to meet with students at the early hour of 7:30 a.m.  We knew the students would love her. They always do!” To hear an excerpt of Spring Festival, visit http://www.bandquest.org/music/springfestival.shtml.

Chen Yi was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1953 and started studying violin and piano at age three. She is a graduate of Beijing Central Conservatory (BA and MA) and Columbia University in the City of New York (DMA), and is currently the Lorena Searcey Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Music Composition at the Conservatory of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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