Spain, China, France and more…
XueFei Yang graced us with her refined sense of style and technique last night for a third performance on the Marlow Series in just five short years. It’s not often we’re visited with such frequency by one performer, but a couple come to mind: Pepe Romero and David Russell, so she’s in excellent, established company on the one to ten scale – and, there’s good reason for it.
I have said before, I will do so again, the international flavor the Marlow series offers provides a steady glimpse into the culture and history of our interconnected world with artists who share their treasures and introduce us to the infinite range of human expression. When Ms. Yang altered the order of her program to ensure her native Chinese heritage did not stand on its own after intermission, it was an illuminating call. There’s clearly a lot more that shines on the classical guitar than the usual mix of Spanish and Latin American composers – like the Welsh composer, yes, I said Welsh, Stephen Goss’ carefully crafted interpretations of the Book of Songs based on ancient Chinese poetry (a tall task for a non-native). Of the six Songs composed out of a universe of 305 poems, the sweetest was Ms. Yang’s admitted favorite, “Pastoral”, with its “wind blowing in the long grass and trees.” There’s something perfect about the pentatonic influence with which Chinese traditional music is infused. Renaissance composers loved the perfection of the perfect fifth and treated it with great reverence, but its influence came from the Far East. You can’t write traditional Chinese music without the pentatonic scale and this Welshman employed it admirably throughout these lovely pieces. This music is well suited for the guitar which sounds more like an Asian instrument then a western one when plucked as sensitively as rendered by Ms. Yang.
Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin arranged by Julian Bream appropriately followed the Book of Songs hinting at the chinoiserie of Claude’s evolving psyche and by the time de Falla’s Homenaje, pour le tombeau de Debussy brought the first half of the program to a close, Ms. Yang had once again demonstrated how remarkably her delicate digits slide over the frets from one culture to another without a fumble. Both composers would have been impressed.
Granados opened the second half of the concert with Valses Poeticos arranged by Ms. Yang. Granados was not a composer of music for the guitar so if you want to know what this opus should sound like, you might be interested in listening to a recording by Alicia de Larrocha whose passionate playing defines this delightful and alternatingly sentimental work with the fullness it demands. Listen to Alicia and you’ll wonder how anyone else could manage it so well. It’s a difficult one to translate but it was done so with great accomplishment and nerve by Ms. Yang.
The Chinese traditional music was my personal fav on last night’s program. There’s nothing quite as tranquil as listening to the cascading chords of a waterfall in an enchanting garden. This is what it felt like listening to this fluid work as quick and complex as they get but done with the ease of a true professional — so effortless, yet so difficult and astutely realized. Ms. Yang is truly a cut above and the season’s not even over yet!
David Russell on March 12 needs no introduction, so purchase your tickets now, they won’t last long and join us for another remarkable evening unlike any other around this town.