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Xiaoyong Chen turns 65

Xiaoyong Chen was born on 13 May 1955 in Beijing, where he first studied violin and from 1980 to 1985 composition at the Central Conservatory. Immediately thereafter he completed postgraduate studies with György Ligeti at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg until 1989. Chen made his European debut as a composer in 1987 at the Donaueschinger Musiktage with the premiere of the 1st String Quartet by the Auryn Quartet. In 1992 the orchestral work “Dyeh ...” was premiered as a commission from the Südwestfunk Baden-Baden. That year Chen also received the composition prize of the Forum of Young Composers of the WDR with his composition “Yün” for soprano and 11 instrumentalists, premiered by Peter Eötvös conducting the Ensemble Modern in Cologne and subsequently presented in Leipzig and Dresden. His “Warp” for chamber ensemble and the 1st String Quartet was performed in Amsterdam and Vienna during a tour by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in 1994.  An intense collaboration with the orchestra began from that time, resulting in three commissions: “Warp” (1994), “Evapora” (1996) and “Invisible Landscapes” (1998). In 1999 The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie produced the portrait CD “Invisible Landscapes” in cooperation with Radio Bremen (it was awarded the highest score in all five quality categories in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik). In 1999, he also wrote the orchestral work "Interlaced Landscpapes", commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It was performed seven times by the Orquestra Gulbenkian conducted by Muhai Tang on a tour of China and Portugal. In 2000, the composition "Fusion" for ensemble was commissioned by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma for his Silk Road Project. In June 2002 the composition “Xi-Fusion III” for ensemble was premiered as a commission by the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg and in October that year “Yang Shen” for soprano, three Chinese instruments and ensemble premiered at the Dresden Days of Contemporary Music. "Du Bai" for sheng solo was composed by Chen for the event, ‘Welt@musik - Musik interkulturell’ (April 2003) and “Interlaced Fragments” for sheng and viola premiered in Berlin in January 2004. The “MaerzMusik-Festival” in Berlin commissioned a composition for ensemble entitled “Speechlessness, Clearness and Ease”, premiered jointly by Klangforum Wien and Ensemble China Found Music from Taipei on 28 March 2004. Numerous portrait concerts have taken place since then, most recently in May 2008 at NDR Hamburg with the two world premieres of “Colours of Dreams” for orchestra and “Warp” for orchestra.
Xiaoyong Chen is one of a small group of Chinese composers who have recently attracted great international attention. He has worked with numerous orchestras and ensembles: SWR-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden, KBS-Symphony Orchestra Seoul, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Gulbenkian Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Züricher Kammerorchester, Ensemble 2e2m Paris, Ensemble work in progress Berlin, Nieuw Ensemble Amsterdam, Silk Road Ensemble New York, Auryn-Quartett, Arditti String Quartet, Cairos-Quartett and many others. Performances of his works have been staged on all continents, including at the following festivals: Asian Music Festival and Pacific Music Festival in Japan, Dresdner Tage der zeitgenössischen Musik (Dresden Days of Contemporary Music), ars nova of SWF, Asian Contemporary Music Festival Korea, Musicarama - International Contemporary Music Festival of Hong Kong, Holland Festival, Wiener Graben-Fest-Tage, Festival Présences of Radio France (Paris), Tage der Neuen Musik Hannover, Festival Ars Musica (Belgium), World Music Days in Manchester (1998) and Hong Kong (2002), the new work Hamburg, Festival unserer Zeit (Festival of Our Time) Münster, Brahms Festival Lübeck, International Summer Courses for New Music Darmstadt, Tromp Muzick Biennale in Holland, Tage der Neuen Musik Würzburg, Biennale der Neue Musik Hannover, Tanglewood Festival (USA).
Xiaoyong Chen received the Christoph and Stephan Kaske Prize in Munich in 1993 and the Bach Prize Scholarship of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg in 1995. Guest professorships have taken him on a constant to and from to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China since 1997. He has been a lecturer at the Asia-Africa Institute of the University of Hamburg since 1987 and from 2006, professor of composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In October 2010, Chen was appointed Visiting Professor for New Music, Composition and Chinese Music Culture at the Hamburg University of Music and Drama. He has held this position as full professor since 2013. In March 2011, September 2012 and January 2013 he was appointed professor at three Chinese music academies: the Xi’an Conservatory of Music, the Central Conservatory of Music and the Capital Normal University of Beijing.

“I had to think long and hard about our world, about my music, about the general problem of the new music scene: We live in a world where people are showered with superficial information. Their attention to important information has been weakened as a result. They have become mentally exhausted and passive, so that they are no longer able to develop their imagination freely. It's the same in music.”

This statement by the composer gives an insight into his compositional development, which is very close to East Asian philosophy, in which the intrinsic value of things and sound is given much greater attention than in Western thinking. For him, the maximum development of the minimum becomes important. What is decisive is not the extent of the musical material used, but its sensitive development with new and unexpected means to enable the listener to experience the sound deeply. Chen's music is also strongly connected to the characteristics of the Chinese language and music and reflected in its subtle melody: the smallest changes, temporal stretches, interval spreads and differentiated differences in dynamics characterize his compositions. Without denying his roots, Chen writes neither a purely Chinese nor a purely European music. Through openness, curiosity and attention a musical tension between East and West is created, which appeals to the most diverse listeners and invokes their curiosity.

In October 2019 Chen finished his “Diary VI”, which is also scheduled to be released for a CD recording at the beginning of June 2020.

May 13, 2020
Xiaoyong Chen
65th birthday
- “Floating Colours” for orchestra
- “Interlaced Landscapes” for orchestra
- “Diary I” for piano

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