Regarded as one of China’s leading and most influential contemporary composers, Professor Xiaogang Ye is also a standing member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Chairman of the China Musicians’ Association, vice chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, professor of composition at the Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM), and Founder and Artistic Director of the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the biggest contemporary music festival in the Far East.
Ye’s oeuvre comprises symphonic works, a range of chamber music, stage works, and film music, and much of his music bears a connection to Chinese culture and tradition. In The Song of the Earth for soprano and orchestra, premiered in January 2005, Ye uses the original Chinese texts on which Mahler based his symphonic work of the same name. The work has received performances in New York (Avery Fisher Hall), Munich (Philharmonie), Berlin (Konzerthaus), Venice, Rome, and Lucerne. In the Macau Bridge Suite No. 2 (2001) and Four Poems of Lingnan (2011), which were recorded by the Macau Orchestra in 2014, Ye also refers to old Chinese legends and texts. The composer’s deep attachment to nature and Buddhist religion is shown especially in composition series such as the Tibet Series: In Twilight of the Himalayas (2013), he gives his impressions of traveling through Tibet and Nepal. Within the Tropic Plants Series, each work is named after a tropical plant and characterizes the homeland of the southern Chinese composer.
In August 2008, Ye’s piano concerto Starry Sky was premiered during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing by Lang Lang. Accompanied by dance and light shows, the live broadcast was watched by 3 billion people worldwide.
He has received numerous prizes and awards, among them the 1982 Alexander Tcherepnin prize, the 1986 Japan Dance Star Ballet prize, and awards from the Urban Council of Hong Kong (1987-94), the Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (1992), the China Cultural Promotion Society (1993), the Li Foundation (San Francisco 1994), and the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra (1996). In 2013, Ye was awarded the China Arts Award. He was a fellow of the Metropolitan Life Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts in 1996 and of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2012. Ye received a Distinguished Alumni Citation from the Eastman School of Music in 2011.
Musical America considered Xiaogang Ye to be the “Chinese Bach,” and reviewed that his music displays boldly defined musical personalities, vividly expressed: “It is [hoped] that the daunting political and geographic obstacles separating this composer from the world musical community will not prevent him from achieving the international reputation he deserves.” In addition, the American composer John Corigliano acclaimed that, “his music is deeply felt and highly crafted, so beautiful and yet always intellectually stimulating, completely magical – so amazing.”