XIAOGANG YE (b.1955): The Song of Sorrow and Gratification for Bass-Baritone and Orchestra, Op. 67 (Shenyang [bass-baritone]), December Chrysanthemum for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 52b (Sharon Bezaly [flute]), Winter for Orchestra, Op. 28, The Brilliance of Western Liang for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 16 (Wei Lu [violin]), Starry Sky for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 56 (Noriko Ogawa [piano], Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus).
Catalogue Number: 07X054
Description: This immensely successful composer, both in China and internationally, has written extensively for the concert stage, opera house, and for film. He studied extensively in the West, following his Chinese education, and his works are deeply connected to Chinese culture, while espousing a rich Western palette with a firm basis in tonality, while integrating evocations of traditional performance techniques and inflections - and sometimes traditional instruments, though not in these works - in a manner that never feels like grafted-on "crossover" gestures. In these works the Western idiom that is most apparent is that of fin-de-ciècle late Romanticism, along with the sumptuous, rich-toned orchestration with which it is commonly associated. This is even the case in Winter I of 1988, an extremely dark and dramatically expressive tone poem of melancholy mien, born of of the composer’s feelings of alienation on first arriving in the USA, and the even earlier The Brilliance of Western Laing. This was the composer’s graduation piece from the Beijing Conservatory, and in no uncertain terms announces the establishment of his mature style. A substantial concertante symphonic poem, the work refers to a fifth-century Chinese kingdom, and Ye makes use of the melodic contours and scales contained in ancient manuscripts discovered there in the piece's material, especially that for the soloist. A certain socialist-realist bombastic optimism and sentimentality, presumably due to the necessity of official acceptance, is handled with Shostakovichinan skill, and the work is bold, colourful and atmospheric throughout. The late-Romantic feeling is especially apparent in The Song of Sorrow and Gratification (2012), a cycle of four orchestral songs setting texts by Li Shutong (1880 –1942), poems expressive of a young man’s discontent in troubled times (and, being a young man, in general). The piece is deeply eloquent, and redolent of the moods - and vocabulary - of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Only the third song, "Revisiting Xiaolan Pavilion" makes much of its Chinese origins, in whole-tone scales, oddly echoing Mahler's faux-chinoiserie in his Von der Jugend (which also refers to a pavilion) - a veiled commentary on the "cultural appropriation" in Mahler's great work? December Chrysanthemum was written in memory of the composer’s deceased daughter, and represents a beautiful flower withering in snow, still retaining its delicate, unearthly beauty. Its sentiments of deep sorrow are buried in the gentle formality of a nature scene, like an image of the snow-covered landscape masking the death of the flowers beneath. Starry Sky is the occasional piece written for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that catapulted the composer’s public recognition into the stratosphere. It is in an unabashedly populist style. Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Gilbert Varga (opp. 67 & 16), José Serebrier.