“The guitar world has a new star.” —Gramophone
Exclusive New York engagement
Xuefei Yang, guitar
BRITTEN: Five Courtly Dances from Gloriana (arr. Yang)
MERTZ: Six Schubertian Songs
BRITTEN: Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70
CHEN YI: Shuo Chang (US premiere)
WALTON: Five Bagatelles
GINASTERA: Sonata, Op. 47
92Y Concerts at SubCulture is a co-presentation of 92Y and SubCulture.
This concert takes place in SubCulture, 45 Bleecker St.
Xuefei’s YouTube Channel
Interview with UK’s Gramophone magazine, prior to giving the world premiere of Chen Yi’s Shuo Chang at London’s Wigmore Hall, Nov 3, 2013. She gives the US premiere at 92Y on Dec 3.
Interview as part of “The Story of the Guitar” series on BBC One
Interview with Jenni Murray on BBC Radio, including comments on her choice of the guitar, considered very unusual for a music student in China, Sep 7, 2009
Video clip of Xuefei Yang performing Alberto Ginastera’s Sonata, Op. 47
Videotaped interview and performance of Bach’s Air on a G String, from Bach Birthday concert, “Sonatas and Partitas,” on WBGH-FM Boston’s “Drive Time Live” with host Cathy Fuller, March 16, 2012
Music video of Albéniz’s Asturias from Suite espagñola, No. 1, Op. 47, from Romance de Amor (EMI Classics, 2006)
On the Blog
“Fifteen Questions” for Xuefei Yang from Tokafi, an international music journalism website. Here’s Question 8:
In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your performances?
This is another good question! I could write a lot about this, but will try to answer succinctly. As a teenager in China, my playing was more by feeling rather than knowledge, but when I came to the UK I learned to analyse more. Chinese art in general tends to be very free form and imaginative, and less structured – in some ways it is very “horizontal.” Western music often has a vertical component too (harmony, contrapuntal structure, etc) that requires a different approach and understanding. I am very comfortable with both cultures and their art, but find I have a very instinctive feel for free flowing rubato music, which I attribute to my Chinese cultural background.
Click here to read the full Q&A.
An interview with XueFei Yang by Martin Cullingford for “Interview Soundbites” feature of Gramphone magazine, Nov 2010
By Xuefei Yang
I am the classical guitarist Xuefei Yang—you can call me Fay. I am looking forward to playing for you at 92nd Street Y in its new series at SubCulture this December.
My program takes you on a musical journey from the 1600s through 2013, and across Europe, South America and Asia. Along the way I will showcase three pieces that are considered 20th century masterworks for the instrument and give the world premiere of a piece from my homeland China.
The first half features the music of Benjamin Britten and Schubert. The year 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the British composer Benjamin Britten. He wrote just one piece for solo guitar, Nocturnal after John Dowland, for the British guitarist Julian Bream. It is based on the theme of sleep, and dreams. It is one of the most important pieces written for the instrument. I love this piece and want to play it for you in this centenary year.
Britten’s Courtly Dances are from his opera Gloriana, set almost 500 years ago in the Royal Court of Queen Elizabeth I. In this anniversary year, I have transcribed the full set of dances for solo guitar. At first, I thought a couple of the dances were impossible to play, but I finally figured them out. So I hope you will agree with me that they work on the instrument and are a worthy addition to the guitar repertoire.
I always include a Romantic piece in my program, and this time I chose one of my all-time favourite Romantic composers, Franz Schubert whose music speaks to me directly. I have selected six of his songs, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the 19th century guitarist/composer Johann Kasper Mertz for these beautiful arrangements.
I will start the second half with the USA premiere of a piece (commissioned for me by Wigmore Hall in London) from the USA-based Chinese composer Chen Yi. I am very excited about this piece as it is the first I have received from a Chinese composer. It is based a Chinese folk-style called Shuo Chang which typically uses drums, singing and speaking to present a musical drama. This piece presents all these elements as a monodrama on a single guitar. I hope you will enjoy the sounds, colours and textures of this piece.
For the final two pieces of the second half, I chose two of the masterworks from the 20th century guitar repertoire.
William Walton was a British composer who wrote these Five Bagatelles for Julian Bream. Although “Bagatelle” means a short, light piece, these are technically challenging to play. The pieces carry some of the warmth of the Italy, where Walton spent many years of his life.
The final piece is by Alberto Ginastera and written for Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa Lima. His Sonata in four movements showcases and deconstructs the sounds, ambiance and rhythms of his native Argentina, ending in a frenzied and exciting finale to close the concert.
I am looking forward to sharing this wonderful music with you on December 3!
Xuefei Yang is hailed as a musical pioneer. Born in Beijing and now based in the UK, she was the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school (Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music), the first guitarist to give a recital in the Beijing National Center of Performing Arts, and the first Chinese guitarist to launch an international professional career.
Ms. Yang’s first public appearance was at the age of ten, and it received such acclaim that the Spanish Ambassador to China immediately presented her with a concert guitar. Her debut in Madrid at the age of 14 was attended by the composer Joaquín Rodrigo; when the guitarist John Williams heard her play, he gave two of his own instruments to Beijing’s Central Conservatory especially for her and other advanced students. Ms. Yang then became the first Chinese student to be awarded a full postgraduate scholarship to study at London’s Royal Academy of Music. In recognition of her distinguished career, she was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music in June 2012.
Ms. Yang enjoys an international career. Her engagements for the 2013/14 season include performances with the Bournemouth and Pacific symphonies, English Chamber Orchestra, Musikkollegium Winterthur and LuzernQuartett. Following the critical praise Ms. Yang received for her performance on tenor Ian Bostridge’s album Britten Songs, which also featured pianist Sir Antonio Pappano, she partnered with Mr. Bostridge in a recital at the Philharmonie Cologne this past September. Ms. Yang’s commitment as a recitalist will see her appear across the world, with engagements in San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Baltimore, Miami, New York, Vermont, Seoul, Taipei, Brussels, London and Bath.
Ms. Yang records exclusively for EMI Classics. Her debut album, Romance de Amor, won a gold disc in Hong Kong, and her second, 40 Degrees North, was selected as “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone magazine. Her latest solo disc, Sojourn, is a compilation disc that features the music of Bach and others. Since she premiered Equipoise by Timothy Salter, commissioned for her by the Park Lane Group, Ms. Yang has committed herself to expanding the guitar repertoire, with a particular interest in adding Chinese music to the repertoire. Her website is xuefeiyang.com