On Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 7 pm, Shanghai/New York-based pianist Jenny Q Chai will be throwing an album release party at New York City’s Spectrum. Spectrum is located at 121 Ludlow Street, 2nd Floor, New York City. (Essex stop on J, M and Z trains; Delancey stop on F Train.) Admission is free but reservations are recommended. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Jenny Q Chai will be performing selections from Life Sketches, the latest digital release of the esteemed Classical label Naxos. Life Sketches is the product of a long-time collaboration between the Chinese pianist Jenny Q Chai and American composer Nils Vigeland. (The album itself is currently available from major digital services providers for downloading and streaming, including iTunes.)
Chai first met Vigeland when she was studying for her master’s degree, where he served as her theory teacher. With a shared a love of New Music, and an admiration for her playing, Vigeland gave Chai the score for his original work Life Sketches. “This was the first serious piano cycle I’d ever received from a living composer, and I took it very seriously,” said Chai. “…It was overwhelming!”
This world première recording presents five works spanning forty years in their date of composition. One of the selections, Allora e ora (Now and Then), is a suite of character pieces on Italian subjects, running a constant exploration of the unique resonances of the piano, especially those created through the use of the sostenuto pedal.
Another work, Five Pieces, is from 2010, and was specifically composed for and dedicated to Jenny Q Chai. “The different texture of each of the pieces was intended to give Jenny every opportunity to utilize her varied and remarkable gifts of touch and timbre,” said Nils Vigeland.
Chai will augment the evening’s performance with works by living composers Marco Stroppa and Jarosław Kapuściński, not included on the recording.
Stroppa’s Birichino is a boy who died as a casualty of police terror in Italy. While the subject matter appears heavy, the piece is light and humorous, with an overarching theme about refusing to be treated as a victim.
Kapuściński’s Juicy, a work about personified fruit, is a carefully designed work for piano and video, where the aural and visual aspects are equally important. Juicy will be played with the artificial intelligence software Antescofo, designed by Marco Stroppa at IRCAM.
On the horizon for Jenny Q Chai is an appearance at the Leo Brouwer Festival in Cuba, alongside artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, and Jordi Savall.
Nils Vigeland, Wild Hopes/Trumpets/Cambiata Waltz from Life Sketches
Nils Vigeland, L’empire des lumières
Nils Vigeland, Santa Fina/I Turisti from Allora e ora
Marco Stroppa, Birichino from Miniature Estrose
Jarosław Kapuściński, Juicy
Nils Vigeland, 2 and 4/ 5 from Five Pieces
About Jenny Q Chai
A boundary-defying artist, and recipient of numerous awards, pianist Jenny Q Chai studied at the Shanghai Music Conservatory, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and in Germany. Her teachers include Pierre- Laurent Aimard, Seymour Lipkin, Solomon Mikowsky, and Anthony de Mare, as well as close consultation with Marilyn Nonken, Chai’s thesis adviser for her doctoral dissertation. Although her extensive repertory spans from the Renaissance to the present day, Chai has a special affinity for the music of Scarlatti, Beethoven, Bach, Debussy, and Ravel. In addition, Chai has forged strong relationships with contemporary composers such as Nils Vigeland, Marco Stroppa, Jarosław Kapuściński, and Cindy Cox. Chai has won acclaim for performances in New York City, Chicago and Baltimore, as well as throughout Western Europe. In China, she has appeared regularly at the Shanghai Concert Hall, and is widely known as a leading advocate for contemporary music, having given the Chinese première of numerous contemporary masterworks, including works by Messiaen, Cage, and the very first prepared piano concert in the country. Her immersive approach to music is also channelled into her work with FaceArt Institute of Music, the Shanghai-based organisation she founded and runs, offering music education and an international exchange of music and musicians in China and beyond. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the New York City-based contemporary music organisation Ear to Mind. Chaiʼs talents have been showcased on recordings with Ensemble 20/21 on the Deutschlandfunk label (performing music by Hanns Eisler) and as solo pianist/vocalist on ArpaVivaʼs New York Love Songs.
About Nils Vigeland
Nils Vigeland was born in Buffalo, NY, in 1950. He made his professional début as a pianist in 1969 with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Lukas Foss conducting. He later studied composition with Foss at Harvard University and Morton Feldman at the University at Buffalo. Since 1978, he has lived and worked in New York City, directing the Bowery Ensemble (1980-88), which was closely associated with the music of Feldman and John Cage. He taught at Manhattan School of Music from 1982 to 2013. His music has been performed by the English National Opera, the Milwaukee Symphony and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, among others. With Eberhard Blum and Jan Williams, he recorded the complete extended length works for flute, percussion and piano by Morton Feldman on HAT ART. His own music is available on EMF, Focus, Lovely Music, Mode, and Ravello releases.