By Greg Hugh | February 2022
A new work commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra is special — only 20 such works have been introduced on the Orchestra’s subscription series in the past 19 years — and the upcoming Lunar New Year concerts on February 5 and 6 bring an even greater rarity: the Feb. 5 world premiere of a new concerto will feature the composer herself as soloist.
Words from the composer
Chinese-born Minnesota-based pipa player Gao Hong will perform the world premiere of her three-movement Guangxi Impression Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra at the first of its two Lunar New Year concerts, with Junping Qian conducting. (Gao performs Guangxi Impression on the Feb. 5 program only.) She shared the following comments on her new composition:
“Guangxi is a province in southern China that sports a rich diverse population that includes 48 different ethnic groups. This piece is in three movements: Dance of Tiaodan, Summer Cicadas and Celebrating the Harvest.
Dance of Tiaodan: “The first movement depicts Tiaodan people as they carry goods on their shoulders with bamboo sticks. The music describes the people as they work happily in the field. People one-by-one come from far away with the bamboo sticks on their shoulders, creating ‘biandan’ up and down movements that simulate dancing.”
Summer Cicadas: “In Guangxi, the weather is very hot and the cicadas are very noisy. But in the Dong minority, the most famous song is inspired by the sounds of the cicadas. The music describes a hot summer day, with young men and women looking for lovers during work breaks in the field.”
Celebrating the Harvest: “A plentiful harvest is cause to celebrate in Guangxi, and I depict this celebration with sounds of percussion bands and celebratory words near the movement’s end.”
Chinese performer and composer Gao is a master of the pear-shaped lute, the pipa. She began her career as a professional musician at age 12, and later graduated from China’s premier music school, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Gao has received numerous top awards and honors, including first prize in the Hebei Professional Young Music Performers Competition; an International Art Cup in Beijing; the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship; five McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians; numerous grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board; and a Sally Award.
Gao has performed throughout Europe, Australia, Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong, China and the U.S. in solo concerts, and with orchestras, jazz musicians and performers from many cultures. She is a guest professor at the Central Conservatory of Music, China Conservatory of Music, Tianjin Conservatory of Music and Hebei Vocational Arts College. She teaches Chinese musical instruments and is director of the Chinese Music Ensemble and Global Music Ensemble at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Gao’s most recent recording of live compositions and improvisations with oudest Issam Rafea, “From Our World to Yours,” was released in 2020 and was awarded gold medals in two categories by the Global Music Awards.
Minnesota Orchestra Lunar New Year concerts
The Minnesota Orchestra will perform a pair of Lunar New Year concerts on Feb. 5 and 6, with conductor Junping Qian leading the Orchestra in music that honors family traditions and themes of unity and health. The Saturday, Feb. 5, 8 p.m. concert features the world premiere performance of Gao Hong’s Guangxi Impression Concerto for Pipa and Orchestra, with the composer as soloist, and the Sunday, Feb. 6 Lunar New Year Relaxed Family Concert at 2 p.m. is presented in a slightly shorter version geared toward families. The concert on Feb. 5 will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS and streamed online, and both concerts are presented as part of The Great Northern.
These concerts will be performed at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. More information is available at and by phone at 612-371-5656.
For ticket and purchasing details, refer to the information in the accompanying announcement on page 17.
Keywords: Pipa, Gao Hong, Minnesota Orchestra, Lunar New Year concerts