HK Phil Presents Songs Of The Earth By Mahler And Ye Xiaogang
The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil) proudly presents two Songs of the Earth in one programme on 27 & 28 April in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. Alongside Mahler's famous settings in a German translation, native Chinese composer, Ye Xiaogang, presents the same seven ancient Chinese poems in their original language.
Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, is a song cycle for tenor, contralto and orchestra based on seven poems from the Tang Dynasty which the composer only knew in a famous German translation. Ye Xiaogang decided to embark on his own settings of these same seven poems, also scored for male and female vocal soloists accompanied by a large orchestra, based on his great love for those original Chinese poems and his admiration for Mahler. "The feelings that Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde give to me are quite different from the feelings that those poems give to me", Ye says of his work, completed in 2005. "In my opinion, Mahler's music is full of disillusionment, but my work expresses a middle-aged man remaining ambitious about the world."
In 1907 Mahler's four-year-old daughter died of scarlet fever. Following this calamitous loss, Mahler himself suffered a mild heart attack and was advised to cut back on his workload. During this enforced rest, Mahler read a book in German translation called The Chinese Flute and selected seven of the poems by Li Bai, Qian Qi, Meng Haoran and Wang Wei to set to music. The "song-symphony" was completed in 1909 and has been described by Mahler expert Deryck Cooke as "music of indescribable beauty and poignancy [with] a new, naked kind of harmonic texture and orchestration which...is like no other in music".
The two linked pieces - Ye's in the first half, Mahler's after the interval - will be conducted by the HK Phil's Principal Guest Conductor Yu Long with renowned soloists Yu Guanqun (Soprano), Ildikó Komlósi (Mezzo-Soprano), Klaus Florian Vogt (Tenor) and Liao Changyong (Baritone).
Yu Long, conductor [full biography]
The pre-eminent Chinese conductor with an established international reputation, Yu Long is currently Artistic Director of the Beijing Music Festival and the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director of the Shanghai and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, the co-director of MISA Shanghai Summer Festival, and the Principal Guest Conductor of the HK Phil. Yu Long frequently conducts the leading orchestras and opera companies around the world. In 2010, he received an Honorary Academician from the Central Conservatory of Beijing for his great dedication to cultural exchanging and music development in China.
Yu Guanqun, soprano [full biography]
Soprano Yu Guanqun has gained international attention since winning the first prize at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in 2008. In 2010 she made her debut in Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc under the baton of Bertrand de Billy at the Musikverein Wien. This was followed by Mimi (La Bohème) at the Pacific Festival in Sapporo conducted by Fabio Luisi and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) in Bologna. Yu's US debut at the Metropolitan Opera was in 2012 and in the same year she was awarded the Placido Domingo Operalia Singing Competition. Yu just sang Liù in Turandot at Metropolitan Opera New York.
Ildikó Komlósi, mezzo-soprano [full biography]
Hungarian mezzo-soprano Ildikó Komlósi studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Budapest and took part in the specialising courses of the Teatro alla Scala and Guildhall School of Music in London. She was winner of the Pavarotti International Competition in 1986 and made her debut in Verdi's Messa da Requiem opposite Luciano Pavarotti. In 2016 she received the highest honour, the Kossuth Prize from the Hungarian government. She continues to sing around the world at festivals and theatres including the Hungarian State Opera House, Verbier Festival, at the BBC Proms in London, and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the US.
Klaus Florian Vogt, tenor [full biography]
Klaus Florian Vogt is one of the finest Wagner tenors of our time. Since his triumphant debut as Stolzing at the Bayreuth Festival in 2007 he has been a regular guest. He performed Lohengrin from 2011 until 2015, and in 2016 Bayreuth audiences saw him in the title role of a new production of Parsifal. In 2017 he performed Stolzing in the new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg directed by Barrie Kosky. February 2018 saw him on stage as Parsifal at the Metropolitan Opera New York. He has also established his reputation as a concert singer and as a fine interpreter of Lied.
Liao Changyong, baritone [full biography]
Liao Changyong is an iconic singer in the contemporary Chinese music scene. He has won many international competitions, including the first prize of the 41st International Singing Competition in Toulouse, Operalia - The World Opera Competition founded by Plácido Domingo, and The Queen Sonja International Music Competition in Norway. Liao has sung in more than 30 operas and given over 100 performances around the world with famous musicians and conductors including Plácido Domingo, Lorin Maazel and Michel Plasson. His repertory includes The Barber of Seville, Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, La traviata, Rigoletto and Tea: A Mirror of Soul.
Ye Xiaogang, composer [full biography]
Xiaogang Ye (b. 1955) is currently the Vice President of Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. He is now one of the most revered composers working in China and his pieces are deeply informed by his homeland's musical traditions as well as its geography. His compositions range from operas and symphonies to film scores and a piano concerto heard by three billion people when Lang Lang premiered it at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.