Chen Yi’s New Piano Concerto, Four Spirits, Premiered in China

The China Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Clara Yang premiered Chen Yi’s Four Spirits on November 18th in Beijing, China. The ensemble, under the direction of Long Yu, also brought the work to Chapel Hill, NC on December 8th for its U.S. Premiere.


Four Spirits (2016)
For Piano and Orchestra
Solo Pno.; 2(2 = Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
Duration: 26′
Commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Program Note:
Four Spirits represents the four sacred animals in Chinese legend: the blue dragon in the east, the black xuanwu (a combination of turtle and snake in one) in the north, the white tiger in the west, and the red phoenix in the south. The images have inspired me in my music creation.

The first movement features a bright and refreshing image, with tunes composed in the style of Chinese folk songs drawn from the center part of China, the music is lyrical and energetic.

The sonority in the second movement is dark, mysterious and imaginative, with passionate and expressive layers, as well as vertical soundscapes and space presented by the piano solo.

In the third movement, the dramatic, witted, and powerful characteristics are presented by the patterns in extreme registers on the piano, supported by sections of instruments in the orchestra. This shorter movement serves as an episode towards the final movement.

The fourth movement is fast, lively, fluent, and vibrant. The thematic material is taken from a folk tune in South China. The piano and the orchestra became an organic whole in the four-movement concerto, symbolizing the spirits of the culture from the East.

–Chen Yi
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