21 Dec 2017

Maestro JoAnn Falletta will lead the HSO through this dynamic Eastern Light program featuring Griffes, The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan; Stravinsky, Song of the Nightingale; Borodin, Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and the World Premiere of Chen Yi’s Southern Scenes Concerto for Flute & Pipa.

Griffes Pleasure Dome is filled with dynamic change and vivid musical landscapes. Stravinsky and Borodin build on the rich tapestry of color and light that rises in the east, and Chen Yi’s combination of the Western flute with pipa, and her incorporation of other Asian instruments in the orchestra’s percussion section, is representative of her imagination fusion of Western and Eastern sonorities.

Chen Yi’s World Premiere of Southern Scenes Concerto for Flute & Pipa

As is the case with many other Chinese-American composers, Chen Yi’s life and philosophy were formed by China’s Cultural Revolution. Her parents were both well-to-do physicians with a keen interest in music. Chen Yi studied both violin and piano from age three. In the late 1960s, she was sent to the Chinese countryside to do forced labor. The experience was pivotal in connecting her to her homeland, its people, and particularly its music.

She has said that without the Cultural Revolution, she might never have discovered the power and potential that lay buried in her musical roots. She has written: Classical music was forbidden during the Cultural Revolution, but I tried to continue playing. Even when I worked for twelve hours a day as a laborer, carrying hundred-pound loads of rocks and mud for irrigation walls, I would play both simple songs to farmers along with excerpts from the standard western classical repertory. It was during that period that I started thinking about the value of individual lives and the importance of education in society. As an artist living in the United States, I feel strongly that I can improve the understanding between people by sharing my music.

Gao Hong’s instrument, the pipa, takes its name from an ancient Chinese etymological dictionary that noted “the forward stroke is pi, the backward stroke is pa.” Some ancient Chinese plucked string instruments employed these two basic techniques, thus they were called pipa. Today’s performers play a modern version of the crook-necked pipa that gained predominance in Central Asia by the fifth century A.D. It has a range of 3-1/2 octaves.

As the title Southern Scenes implies, Chen Yi’s two movements take their inspiration from geographical locations in South China. The Huashan Rock Art cultural landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a stunning collection of paintings on limestone cliff formations that were executed over a period of several centuries.

The Hainan bamboo dance is a traditional team dance that involves dancers, musicians, and a ‘team’ of handlers who double as percussionists. Two long bamboo poles serve as ‘pillows,’ supporting a series of ten bamboo poles positioned across them in parallel rows. Ten ‘handlers’ move the poles in rows back and forth rhythmically, providing a pulse – and complicating the steps the dancers must execute in order not to trip amid the moving poles. In some versions of the dance, the poles are lifted vertically as well. Chen Yi’s second movement is inspired by a bamboo dance of the Li Village, in Hainan, a group of islands comprising China’s smallest and southernmost province.

Tickets: Eastern Light, Sunday, January 7 at 4:00 pm. Tickets range from $34 – $92, and are available online, by calling 94-MUSIC, visiting the HSO Box Office or through the Blaisdell box office. Performance is held at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Student & Military Discounts: $15 student rush tickets and $20 active-duty military tickets are available beginning Tuesday, January 2, with a valid ID (must purchase in person).

Parts of this copy courtesy of Laurie Shulman ©2017

The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University commissioned Chen Yi to compose Southern Scenes for Gao Hong, Linda Chatterton, and the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra.

The world premiere performance is made possible, in part, by the generosity of Mr. Ken Wang.

Gao Hong’s appearance is made possible, in part, by funding from International Friendship Through the Performing Arts’ Ethics Concerto Program.