Xuefei Yang

Biography

Xuefei Yang is acclaimed as one of the world’s finest classical guitarists.  Hailed as a musical pioneer - her fascinating journey began after the Cultural Revolution, a period where Western musical instruments & music were banned.  Xuefei was the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school, & became the first internationally recognised Chinese guitarist on the world stage.   

Her first public appearance was at the age of ten and received such acclaim that the Spanish Ambassador in China presented her with a concert guitar. Her debut in Madrid at the age of 14 was attended by the composer Joaquín Rodrigo and, when John Williams heard her play, he gave two of his own instruments to Beijing’s Central Conservatoire especially for her and other advanced students. 

Her international success has led her to be invited to play in more than 50 countries at numerous prestigious venues such as Wigmore Hall, all Southbank venues, and Royal Albert Hall in London, as well as the Philharmonie Berlin, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Konzerthaus Vienna, Auditorio Nacional de Espana, Barcelona Auditorium, Carnegie Hall & Lincoln Center New York. In Asia she has appeared at the National Concert Hall Taipei, Hong Kong City Hall & Cultural Center, Esplanade Singapore, Seoul Arts Centre and gave the first guitar recital and concerto in the Beijing National Center of Performing Arts.  Xuefei has also been invited to perform at major music festivals such as BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Shanghai MISA Festival and the Beijing international Music Festival. 

Xuefei is frequently invited to play with the world’s leading orchestras including Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Scotland National Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, & Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, China Philharmonic.  Xuefei’s recent highlights include return performances with the English Chamber Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Wintertour Philharmonic, debut performances with Beijing Symphony Orchestra, China National Orchestra giving the Asian premier of the The Albeniz Concerto written for Xuefei by Stephen Goss, and an Australian tour with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra which included performing the Australian premier of Tan Dun’s guitar concerto.  Xuefei’s dedication as a recitalist will see her appear across the world throughout the season. Her engagements in the 2016/17 season include appearances in Melbourne, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, San Francisco, Frankfurt, London, Bath, Istanbul and concertos with the Seoul Philharmonic, HK Philharmonic, Beijing Symphony & Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester.  Xuefei also continues her successful collaboration with the Heath Quartet.

Gramophone magazine praised Xuefei as one of the leading innovators of her generation for continuing to build the guitar repertoire.  Xuefei is committed to commissioning new works and making her own arrangements, with a particular interest in adding Chinese music and chamber music, many of which have appeared on her recordings.  Xuefei has received new works from composers such as Chen Yi, Stephen Goss, Timothy Salter, Carlo Domeniconi.    This season sees her giving at least three world premiere performances.

Xuefei has made many albums including several acclaimed recordings for EMI Classics. Her first recording received a gold disc & her second was selected as ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Gramophone magazine.  Several of the recordings reflect Xuefei’s interest in expanding the repertoire.  A concerto album recorded with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eiji Oue, featuring Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez & Goss’ Albeniz Concerto.   Another recording of “Bach Concertos” featured Xuefei’s innovative transcriptions of solo works and concertos by J.S. Bach.   Xuefei has released two albums in 2016, her latest solo album “Colours of Brazil,” (Decca Classics) and “Songs from our Ancestors” (Globe Music) which continues her successful collaboration with Ian Bostridge in a recording made at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Xuefei is one of the few guitarists whose artistry connect with audiences far beyond the guitar fraternity.  She collaborates with an eclectic range of artists: classical musicians such as Jian Wang, Ian Bostridge, Rosalind Plowright, Sir James Galway, Elias String Quartet & the Heath Quartet; cross-over artist David Garrett. Xuefei has also appeared on numerous radio and television programmes including BBC Radio 4’s Woman's Hour, the BBC Proms, a BBC documentary ‘The Story of Guitar’, and China Central Television, who made a biographical documentary on Xuefei, & are filming another this year.  

Xuefei was born in Beijing, & is a graduate of Beijing’s Central Conservatoire of Music, and went on to become the first Chinese musician to receive a full scholarship for postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she received the Principal’s Prize on completion of her postgraduate study.  The UK classical music magazine, Classic FM, named Xuefei as one of the 100 top classical musicians of our time.  In recognition of her distinguished career, Xuefei was awarded ‘Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music’ in June 2012.  Xuefei continues to be ambassador & role model for guitar in China, & from 2015 she is honoured to be the artistic director of Changsha International Guitar Festival. Xuefei is now based in the UK.

August 2016 - This biography must not be edited without permission of Askonas Holt

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  • Forthcoming Performances in Melbourne

Audio

Schedule

Hidden Valley Music Center, CARMEL

BACH Lute suite BWV995
N. Paganini : Grand Sonata
- Allegro risoluto
- Romanze
- Andantino variato
XU CHANGJUN Sword Dance (arr. Xuefei Yang)
-Interval-
HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS Three Choro
- Mazurka-Choro
- Valsa Choro
- Schottish-Choro
JOBIM Modinha & Luiza (arr. Robello), Felicidade (arr.Dyens)
REIS Uma Valsa e Dois Amores, Eterna Saudade, Xodo da Baiana
GAROTO Gente Humilde, Lamentos do Morro

Herbst Theatre, SAN FRANCISCO

BACH Lute suite BWV995
N. Paganini : Grand Sonata
- Allegro risoluto
- Romanze
- Andantino variato
XU CHANGJUN Sword Dance (arr. Xuefei Yang)
-Interval-
HEITOR VILLA-LOBOS Three Choro
- Mazurka-Choro
- Valsa Choro
- Schottish-Choro
JOBIM Modinha & Luiza (arr. Robello), Felicidade (arr.Dyens)
REIS Uma Valsa e Dois Amores, Eterna Saudade, Xodo da Baiana
GAROTO Gente Humilde, Lamentos do Morro

Leeds University Concert Series, LEEDS

J.S. BACH Lute Suite BWV1006a
PAGANINI Sonata
XU CHANGJUN (arr. Xuefei Yang) Sword Dance
Interval
From Brazil:
VILLA LOBOS 3 Choros
ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM Modinha, Luiza (arr. Raphael Rabello), A Felicidade (arr.Roland Dyens)
DILERMANDO REIS Uma Valsa e Dos Amores, Eterna Saudade, Xodo de Baina
MARCO PEREIRA New piece (UK premiere)
GAROTO Gente Huilde, Lamentos do Morro

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Gramophone Interview

In conversation with Xuefei Yang. Click here.
 
Gramophone Magazine November 2010.

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Press

CD: Songs from Our Ancestors

With Ian Bostride, recorded at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

"the converging paths of Ian Bostridge, 49, and Xuefei Yang, 37, have met in a programme of music that conjoins their British and Chinese heritage, while calling upon a gift they share – the capacity to make the voice or instrument express character... Yang, for her part, is able to draw from the guitar the sound of many other instruments, which makes her a particularly exciting accompanist, as versatile as a pianist but capable of greater intimacy." Claudia Pritchard, The Independent, 21 November 2014
"There’s a lot going on here, a lot for the ear to assimilate, but it’s a disc that really comes into focus with repeated listens... Yang reinvents herself convincingly throughout the disc – now a troubadour, now a folk musician, now a concert-hall soloist. Her selections from Chinese repertoire are tantalising – hints of an alien musical world that, here, feels far closer than you’d imagine." Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone, November 2016

“Xuefei Yang’s playing is sensitive, agile and graceful, both when functioning as accompanist and on the instrumental solos. Although using various guitars throughout, when appropriate she vividly evokes lute, mandolin and even the Chinese four-stringed pipa and zither-like guqin, using a modified seven-string guitar to realise the Mong dynasty tune Flowing Water,  probably dating from Shakespeare’s time.” Recording 5 stars. Performance 5 stars.


Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016

Concert 14 April 2016

With the Heath Quartet at Nottingham Lakeside Arts

"First came Xuefei's own arrangement of Bach's A minor Violin Concerto.  Just in case this raises any eyebrows, the performance had such integrity and clarity that it penetrated deeply inside the music, shedding light on the musical texture.  The softly spoken guitar was able to engage in an intimate dialogue with colleagues without any danger of being overwhelmed by superior forces. Moderate speeds further enhanced the feeling of translucency."
William Ruff, Nottingham Post, 15 April 2016

Concert 14 February 2016

St. Louis Classical Guitar Society at Ethical Society Missouri

"When Xuefei Yang made her debut nine years ago with the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, she was an intensely impressive performer. In the intervening years, she’s further honed her technique and added some beautiful works to the repertoire..." Sarah Bryan Miller, St Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 February 2016

Melbourne Concert

With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Benjamin Northey

"Guest guitarist Xuefei Yang fronted Rodrigo's sprightly Aranjuez concerto, facing down some busy, difficult passage work with very few lapses, at her best in the dramatic adagio that retains its impact despite over-familiarity.  This work received clear approbation, clearly a relief for many after the acerbities of Tan Dun's 1996  Yi2  guitar concerto which juxtaposes the familiar tropes of Spanish flamenco and classic guitar with those of the Chinese lute, the pipa.   Throughout its progress but particularly in a riveting cadenza, the composer employs pretty much every possible sound-production technique for his solo instrument against a deft orchestral framework;  true, not easy listening, but a chameleonic palate-cleanser." Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 2014

Recital 03 December 2013

92nd St. Y New York

In Alberto Ginastera’s Sonata (Op. 47), which highlights the sounds and rhythms of the composer’s native Argentina, Ms. Yang also had a chance to vividly explore the sonic possibilities of her instrument.

Ms. Yang, who introduced the program from the stage, jokingly admonished the audience to stay awake during her tribute to the Benjamin Britten centennial: “Nocturnal After John Dowland,” based on the theme from Dowland’s lute song “Come, Heavy Sleep” and the only piece Britten wrote for solo guitar.

There were alluringly subtle moments, particularly in the final section, an intimacy that also proved effective in her performance of Walton’s “Five Bagatelles.”
New York Times 5 December 2013 - Viven Schweitzer

Shostakovitch & Villa Lobos

Concert April 2013

Peristyle Theater

"Yang, a young and gifted Chinese artist, set a high bar for performance excellence, which the symphony easily matched during two numbers featuring the guitar."
The Toledo Blade 21 Apr 2013

Recital March 2012

Boston

"With wonderful music flowing through the six strings of her guitar, the classical guitarist struck a chord with everyone in the audience...Xuefei Yang’s guitar skills and performance were impeccable"

Bostonese.com, 11 March 2012

Bach Concertos

EMI recording, with the Elias String Quartet

"The violin concertos sound more crisp and angular on the guitar - the difference is especially apparent in the slow movements - but Yang does a fine job of smoothing out the edges so as to retain some of the music's lyrical flow, and the harpsichord writing takes on a gentler and more sonorous demeanor. It helps that Yang's playing is nimble and rhythmically acute."

The San Francisco Chronicle, 26 February 2012.

RODRIGO

Concierto de Aranjuez

Hallé Orchestra

"The Halle played host to one of the world’s finest classical guitarists as Beijing-born Xuefei Yang took centre stage for a performance of Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” The UK-based musician wowed the audience with her precision and feeling."

Oldham Chronicle, 23 January 2012

RODRIGO

Concierto de Aranjuez

Barcelona Symphony Orchestra

"Aranjuez was played by a first-rate guitarist, who was centre of attention in the slow melancholic movement with a defined and warm touch...."

La Vanguardia, 9 January 2012

Concert November 2011

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

"Xuefei Yang, using light amplification, played with an alluring marriage of virtuosity and emotionalism, offering cleanly articulated ornamentation and running passages but also deeply felt flamenco expression."

Detroit Free Press, 5 November 2011.

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Recordings

Heartstrings

For this recording, Xuefei chose repertoire that was close to her own heart, hence the title
Decca