The 2nd Monday Concert Series, part of the College of Charleston School of the Arts, will feature violinist Lee-Chin Siow and pianist Paul Sánchez for a night of exciting chamber music on November 13. This “East meets West” themed program will feature the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by He Zhanzhao and Gang Chen, played using traditional Chinese techniques (Hwa Yin Chinese glissando), and movements from Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Strings in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn.
Siow and Sánchez will be joined on stage by 13 strings students from the College of Charleston Music Department. Last July, Siow accompanied four of these students who performed at a U.S. Consulate event in Wuhan, China that celebrated the 241st U.S. Independence Day. The event was coordinated for government officials, business people and educators from Central China to meet and learn about an aspect of U.S. culture — this year’s focus was on environmental living. In a letter to College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell, Consul General Joseph Zadozny wrote, “Your students’ skill and passion for their music deeply impacted the audience and moved me. I enjoy this kind of U.S.-China collaboration because it shows how building ties between our two great nations benefit our young people…”
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1958 while the composers were students at the Shanghai Conservatory. It premiered in 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The music is based on an ancient Chinese legend of two star-crossed lovers — China’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
The piece is a one-movement programmatic violin concerto, with three sections that correspond to the three phases of the story — Falling in Love, Refusing to Marry, and Metamorphosis (the lovers resurrected as butterflies).
Musically the concerto is a synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, although the melodies and overall style are adapted from various forms of traditional Chinese Opera, including Beijing Opera and Kun Qu opera (the oldest form of Chinese opera).
The solo violin is used with a technique that recalls the sound of various Chinese traditional instruments, in particular the inflexions and glissando pitches used by an erhu, an ethereal-sounding bowed string instrument. Adopting methods frequently used in Chinese Opera, such as Jin La Man Chang (fast bowing and slow singing), embellishes the music with unique Chinese features.
Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings provides the counterpoint to Butterfly Lovers in this “East meets West” program. Despite coming from two different cultural spectrums, the two works share common ground. Both were written by composers in their youth — the Double Concerto was written by Mendelssohn when he was 14.
Butterfly Lovers is a symphonic translation of the Chinese operatic tradition, while Mendelssohn also alludes to Mozart’s operas, with the violin singing as a soprano and the piano mimicking orchestral tremolo in the recitative section of the first movement.
Audiences may discover more surprising parallels in this juxtaposition of Asian and Western masterworks; joining Siow and Sánchez on stage will be an international cast of string students from the College of Charleston.
Praised for her “electrifying” performances and ability to “seduce listeners” with her charismatic stage presence, Lee-Chin Siow, Gold medal winner of the Henryk Szeryng International Violin Competition, is “a distinguished cultural asset of international stature” (American Record Guide). As a soloist, she graces the stage with renowned conductors and orchestras, and has wowed audiences in more than 20 countries across five continents, from Carnegie Hall to Osaka Symphony Hall. Her performances have been broadcast internationally by BBC World News, CBS, National Public Radio and China Central TV.
As a soloist, she also has collaborated with renowned orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, National Philharmonic of Ukraine, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Chile, Mexico State Symphony Orchestra; as well as at major concert halls and festivals in Asia, Europe and Americas including the Royal Albert Hall, Osaka Symphony Hall, Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center; among several others.
For her artistic excellence and outstanding achievements, Siow was honored with the Singapore Youth Award for Excellence in the Arts, the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award, the Fellowship in Music Performance by the South Carolina Arts Commission, and in 2015, by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) with the Meritorious Award for her contributions to the development of music in Singapore. Today, she advances a pedagogical tradition in her work with young people all over the world from China’s Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, Soochow University School of Music, Chicago Institute of Music, to the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and as violin professor at the College of Charleston. Equally proud of her Asian origins, Lee-Chin bridges the East and West, championing the music of Asian composers to the West. At the 2015 City of London Festival, she performed the world premiere of “Air”, a piece specially written for her by acclaimed composer Yao Chen, who has been commissioned by Grammy award winning artists. In 2017, she premiered “Air” and Singaporean composer Kam Kee Yong’s “Chinese Rhapsody” at Carnegie Hall.
Praised as “a great artist” (José Feghali, 2013), pianist and composer Paul Sánchez has concertized in North America and Europe, and has appeared on CBS national television and in radio broadcasts nationwide. He is an active recording artist with six commercial releases as of 2017, and his compositions have been featured on the Soundset Recordings and Albany labels. In a Fanfare Magazine review of Sánchez’ 2016 CD Magus Insipiens, featuring three of Sánchez’ song cycles, Colin Clarke declares, “This is one of the most beautiful discs in my collection…. Haunting in the extreme,” while Henry Fogel states, “This is hauntingly beautiful music… generously filed with melodic inspiration and evocative atmosphere…. works of originality and a distinctive musical personality.” Sherod Santos, American poet and translator of the Sappho texts in Sánchez’ song cycle “The journey,” describes Sánchez’ composition as “a magnificent achievement, a work of great innovation and hypnotic effect, impossible to walk away from unmoved.”
Dr. Sánchez is Director of Piano Studies and the International Piano Series at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He is a co-founder of the San Francisco International Piano Festival and the Dakota Sky Academy. Sánchez is also an active recording engineer and producer, having engineered and produced albums on the Athyr Records, Albany Records, and Soundset Recordings labels. Sánchez, a Fulbright fellow from 2005–2007, earned his Master of Spanish Music degree under the legendary Alicia de Larrocha. He studied with Tamás Ungár at Texas Christian University, and with Douglas Humpherys at the Eastman School of Music, where he completed his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. Sánchez is a New Piano Collective artist.
The Second Monday Night Concert Series presents exceptional concerts featuring College of Charleston faculty, and local and international artists. The performance on Monday, November 13 will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 Saint Philip St. General admission is $15 and $10 for all students. Tickets can be purchased online at music.cofc.edu/concerts/2nd-Monday-series, by calling (843) 953-6315, or at the door.