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Background information Born (1977-03-15)March 15, 1977 (age 44)
Genres Classical Occupation(s) Classical guitarist Instruments Guitar Years active fl. ca. 1988-present Labels GSP, EMI Website www.xuefeiyang.com
The Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang is, in the words of the Irish Examiner, "an unlikely guitar hero," coming from a country where the classical guitar had only a slight presence. She was the first player to study guitar at the conservatory level in China, the first Chinese guitarist to launch an international career, and the first to present guitar performances at Beijing's prestigious National Center of Performing Arts.
Yang was born in Beijing on March 15, 1977. The restrictions of China's Cultural Revolution, which had prohibited Western music and instruments, had just been lifted. There was no tradition of teaching guitar in China, but Yang's mother, realizing that her child was both hyperactive and musically talented, suggested that Yang join a guitar group at school since she was too small to lift an accordion. Yang began studying with Chinese guitarist Chen Zhi, and at her debut at the first Chinese International Guitar Festival, she impressed the Spanish ambassador, who gave her a luthier made guitar for free.
As a schoolgirl, Yang rapidly achieved an international reputation, playing extensively in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Spain, and Australia, and giving concert tours in Taiwan, Japan and Portugal. At twelve, she played in Tokyo for the first time, and was given a special award by the Guitar Alliance of Japan. Masaru Kohno, this time, took Yang to his studio and asked her to take any guitar with her. She played the Kohno guitar, made of cedar and jacaranda, regularly over the next five years. During her Madrid debut at age 14, the composer Joaquín Rodrigo was among the audience and said that he could not believe she was only a 14-year-old guitarist after listening to her amazing performance. In 1995, after John Williams listened to her performance in Beijing, he was so impressed that he loaned two of his own Greg Smallman guitars to her conservatory, for her and other top students to play.
After completing her secondary schooling, Yang went on to complete her studies in Beijing, becoming the first guitarist to enter a music school in China, and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts from the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music. She then become the first guitarist from China to study in the United Kingdom and the first guitarist ever to receive an international scholarship from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music for her postgraduate programme at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
She moved to London in 2000, studying under Michael Lewin, John Mills and Timothy Walker and further establishing her international career with many solo recitals and concert performances in the UK and Europe. She graduated with distinction in 2002, achieving a Recital Diploma and receiving the Royal Academy of Music Principal's prize for exceptional all-round studentship.
Yang has won numerous prizes in music competitions including the Stotsenberg International Classical Guitar Competition, the San Francisco International Guitar Competition and the Young Concert Artist International competition in the United States, and the Darwin International Guitar Competition in Australia. She was awarded first prize in the Ivor Mairants Guitar Award by the City of London's Worshipful Company of Musicians, and won the Dorothy Grinstead Prize for a recital at Fairfield Hall, Croydon.
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.
Her international success has led her to be invited to play in more than 50 countries, including the United Kingdom, the U.S., Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, China, Japan and Singapore. Concert appearances have included playing Rodrigo's "Fantasia para un Gentilhombre" with the BBC Concert Orchestra and "Concierto de Aranjuez" with the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra at Duke's Hall. She has featured on radio as part of the BBC Proms London Composer Portrait series, and performed at 54 concerts for the "Night of the Proms Tour" in 2003/2004 to a total audience of over 800,000 people.. In January 2011 she appeared in Ireland for the first time, at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
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 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.
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 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 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. In 2016, Xuefei released two albums, 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. Her most recent releases include EP “One Day in November” (Apple Music), “Sketches of China” (Decca) and EP “Summertime” (Apple Music).
- "But the star of the evening was the Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang. In Xiaoyong Chen’s Static and Rotation she turned sweet, chiming overtones into a wild sound like a hailstorm on a window. And, playing with similar brilliance in Robert Saxton’s Night Dance, Timothy Salter’s Equipoise premiere and Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, Yang’s easeful virtuosity won the day." (Matthew Connolly, The Times, January 14, 2003)
- "The enthusiastic reviews that have appeared in the press about this far-eastern prodigy do not seem in the slightest exaggerated after hearing this concert. Xuefei Yang is already among the best guitarists in the world." (Badische Zeitung, 9 July 2002)
- "…she left the audience completely enraptured." (Oberbadisches Volksblatt, 9 July 2002)
- "It was great to hear you play! I wish you every success in future and hope you will have the opportunity you very much deserve to play in many countries." (John Williams, 1995)
- "Truth, fantasy, boldness and delicacy. Listening to Chinese classical guitarist Xuefei Yang’s latest album is like watching a parade of exquisitely rendered beasts on a silk handscroll...If this gorgeous recording finds its ideal pictorial analogue in a painted scroll, Xuefei Yang’s playing can best be compared to the spontaneity and control of a master calligrapher." (Gramophone Magazine, November 2020)
- "This is a seriously virtuosic performance that takes “classical guitar” in many exciting new directions.” (Classical Guitar Magazine, December 2020)
- Classical Guitar by Xuefei Yang, 1999 (先恒, Xianheng Nanjing)
- Si Ji, 2005 (GSP)
- Romance de Amor, 2006 (EMI)
- 40 Degrees North, 2008 (EMI)
- Concierto de Aranjuez, 2010 (EMI)
- J.S.Bach: Concertos & Transcriptions, 2012 (EMI)
- Britten Songs, 2013 (EMI), with Ian Bostridge
- Heartstrings, 2015 (Decca)
- Colours of Brazil, 2016 (Decca)
- Songs from Our Ancestors, 2016 (Globe Music), with Ian Bostridge
- Milonga Del Angel, 2018 (Deutsche Grammophon), with Mengla Huang
- One Day in November (EP), 2019 (Apple Music)
- Sketches of China, 2020 (Decca)
- Summertime (EP), 2021 (Apple Music)
- Personal Profile on hoodong.com Accessed 2006-06-22
- gravitate (21 December 2010). "RT Orchestras: RT National Symphony Orchestra 2010-2011 Season". RTÉ.
Audio and video
- Audio/video page from Xuefei Yang official site