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15 Questions to Xuefei Yang

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am very well. I am at home in the UK.

What’s on your schedule right now?

I have just come back from two recitals at the weekend, and am preparing for another one next weekend. After Barcelona I have a few days at home, before going to perform in Portugal and Italy and UK (including a recital at Snape Maltings). This Autumn I have tours of the USA and China, and will be performing a premier of a new concerto by Stephen Goss with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. For New Year, I am performing in Switzerland with Zurich Chamber orchestra there.

What is your earliest musical memory?
I remember being a child in China and listening to some folk music and dancing on my bed, before I slipped and fell on the floor! I was about three years old.

Was there a deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?
I can’t name a certain moment, but there was a period from about age 10 to age 12 when I realised I could take music as a profession. You have to understand that being a guitarist in China is not a stable career choice, so my parents were worried about me pursuing playing the guitar professionally.

How satisfied are you with life as an artist?
Very satisfied! As a small child in China, I never imagined I would be able to have this level of career. My music has given me the chance to see the world. Many people tell me how much they are moved by my music, so I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I have brought some pleasure into other peoples’ lives.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?

Communicating is the most important aspect of a good live performance – delivering the message of the music to the audience.
Many people say that is it important to enjoy performing. This is true, but what is more important is for the performer to play for the audience – to let them enjoy and appreciate the music. The connection with the audience is very important. This is why I often take time after a concert to meet the audience and do CD signings etc.

How do you balance your personal emotions and the intentions of the composer in your interpretations?

Good question! There is a very fine line here. This is possibly what makes each artist different. At the end of the day, you need to learn a lot about the composer and the piece and respect their intentions, but on performance day you also need to be spontaneous. This is artistry.

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your performances?
This is another good question! I could write a lot about this, but will try to answer succinctly. As a teenager in China, my playing was more by feeling rather than knowledge, but when I came to the UK I learned to analyse more. Chinese art in general tends to be very free form and imaginative, and less structured – in some ways it is very “horizontal.” Western music often has a vertical component too (harmony, contrapuntal structure, etc) that requires a different approach and understanding. I am very comfortable with both cultures and their art, but find I have a very instinctive feel for free flowing rubato music, which I attribute to my Chinese cultural background.

How would you describe and rate the scene for classical music of the country you are currently living in?
Well I live in the UK and this is one of the world-centres for classical music. The live performance of classical music is thriving – for example in most major cities there are a number of performances each week – in London there is a choice of classical music performance each day. A great thing about playing in the UK is that you can go and play in the smallest of villages and still attract and audience who appreciates the music. Classic music finds an audience nationwide. One thing I have noticed is that the audience for classical music tends to be middle aged or elderly. I would like to play my part in bringing classical music to a younger audience too.

Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how, do you think, could this be achieved?
Yes indeed – they are the future of classical music. I think the best way to involve younger people is to give people the opportunity to learn an instrument. Appreciation of music, of any genre, can often start when a person has the opportunity to play music.

How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for you personally?

The new technology has given me a wider audience. For example a lot of people have seen my performances on You Tube. However the new media also make it more difficult for record companies to make money, as people can download and share so much music for free, and this in turn impacts their ability to spend money on recording music.
So the new media is changing the industry for sure, but I think it is too early to say whether it is a good or bad influence. For me the most important aspect of music is live performance, and no other media can really convey the atmosphere of a great live performance. If the new media could bring more people to music and live performance, then I think it is good.

What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and music?
As I mentioned above – there is a very strong link. In my opinion, a good way to involve young people in music, is to give them a chance to learn an instrument.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
I think I would like to put on some concerts for the family – a concert with some classical performers, and performers of other genres. In that way we can bring a wide variety of music and appeal to a cross-section of age groups. It would be nice to get whole families attending concerts.
I would also put on some guitar recitals too !

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?

I see my guitar as my partner – we make music together.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
Well I can also play piano. This was my second instrument at the Conservatoire. I can’t really say how good I am, but I can play some Chopin and Liszt, and I got the award for best pianist, for students who took it as a second instrument.

Classical Guitar by Yang Xuefei 1999
Si Ji (GSP)  2005
Romance de Amor (EMI) 2006
40 Degrees North (EMI) 2008

Yang Xuefei

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