Program Notes by the composer
I. Paper Planes (zhonghu and violin)
II. Afternoon Daydreaming (erhu and violin)
III. Two Little Bees (erhu and violin)
As a child in China back in the 1990s, my generation had a markedly different lifestyle than kids today. Without the digital technologies and screens that now dominate our daily lives, we spent our free time engaging in more analog and physical activities. I have fond memories of those times, especially of one summer day that stands out in my mind. I recall the simple joys of making paper planes, daydreaming on hot afternoons, and playing a popular children’s game called “Two little bees” with my peers. This game, which involved a well-known nursery rhyme and was similar to rock-paper-scissors, was always a favorite.
Looking back on those days more than 20 years later, I have come to appreciate the experience in a way that I didn’t fully grasp at the time. There was a certain beauty in that vintage lifestyle that I rarely encounter today in the United States. It’s possible my memories of that time became faint and perhaps even romanticized. I found Violin and Erhu the perfect combination to carry the collision of different experiences and perspective of me at different times as I revisit them with new thinking. After all, I believe it’s important to remember and share the simple pleasures of life.
Yanchen Ye is an award-winning Chinese contemporary classical music composer. Ye’s orchestral works have been performed by world-class orchestras, including MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet of China Orchestra, China National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra, and Seattle Symphony. The National Ballet of China says, “Despite being a young composer, not only can he master large symphonic orchestra but he is also quite skilled in modern compositional techniques. [His] ’contemporary works’ feature euphonious sounding that is precious in many ‘contemporary works’; the rich colorfulness, abundant gradation, and strong dramatical tension are especially impressive.”
After receiving (2012) the Grand-prize at the Third Composition Competition named after C.C. Prokofiev in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Ye has continued to receive worldwide recognition. The recognition of his very first symphonic work at the China Ministry of Culture’s 16th National Symphonic Composition Competition galvanized him to continue finding his own expression through the orchestra. The Morning at Bita Lake (碧塔海之晨) for symphonic orchestra, then, won the second prize at the National Center for the Performing Arts’ (NCPA) Second Young Composer Programme Competition (2013), where Ye was the youngest composer competing. After the finalist concert, Dutch composer Joël Bons commented, “I am very impressed by the excellent cohesion in Yanchen’s Morning at Bita Lake.” MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor Kristjan Järvi also programmed The Morning at Bita Lake at the TonLagen Festival at Festspielhaus Hellerau, Germany. Ye was invited by Zuohuang Chen to the Fourth China Orchestra Festival in Beijing where his music was also performed. Soon after, Maestro Chen conducted Ye’s piece during the Guiyang Symphony’s concert tour in Guiyang, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong.
In 2015, Ye’s career continued to advance. Vale of Glamorgan Festival (United Kingdom), commissioned Ye to compose for this leading festival of contemporary music. His composition, Two Pieces for seven strings, was presented alongside new music commissions from composers such as Arvo Pärt, Tan Dun, and John Adams. Soloists from China’s NCPA Orchestra performed the premiere of Ye’s music in Wales. After the concert, the Wales Arts Review stated that they “look forward to hearing more of Ye’s music.” In the same year, Ye had his debut performance in the United States, featuring his symphonic overture Xizi (戏子) at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. The Seattle Symphony performed this work as a result of Ye being the sole winner of the Celebrate Asia International Composition Competition. Seattle Times reviewed Xizi as “The major triumph.” Ye’s music impressed the local audience at its first arrival.
In Ye’s compositional philosophy, being original never simply means to search for unconventionality. Instead, new inspirations and excellent expressiveness are often found in the most simple musical elements and tonal universe. Ye often uses short, small motives or melodic fragments as main idea to build a composition with sophistication of development. Despite the simplicity of materials, their evolution to form multidimensionality of element relationship and coherency often raises music ideas to be expressively noticeable and emotion-evoking. On his compositional philosophy, the National Ballet of China commented that Ye’s music “would be the ideological trend of post-modern arts.”
Ye graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Nizhny Novgorod State Conservatory with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Composition, and New England Conservatory with a Master of Music in Composition. He is currently working towards his D.M.A in music composition at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.yanchenye.com)