Xiang Yu & Li Wang

It was 18 years ago, while my dad and I were browsing in the music section of a bookstore in my hometown Inner Mongolia, one cassette drew our attention.  It was a classical album by Chinese violinist Qing Zheng, whose eyes were almost blind after she was born. However, she overcame so many unimaginable difficulties to study violin because of her enthusiasm to music and became a great violinist. I remember my dad bought this cassette and whisper (halfjoke-like) to me, “Maybe one day you will play for this great violinist!” The first piece of this album is Vitali Chaconne, and I still remember how stunned I was after I listened to the first chord of the violin solo – so powerful, rich, yet vulnerable…Undoubtedly, such deep impression left such a magnificent mark on my six year old soul.
You must be wondering, “Why are you telling me this?” Well, four years after that, I moved to Shanghai, and not long after, I became a student of Qing Zheng at Shanghai Conservatory! Life is full of coincidences and adventures, sometime one word or one note can change our life. Maybe it was the first chord of Vitali Chaconne that led me to the professional violin career; maybe my dad’s joke had sowed the seeds of hope in my young unconsciousness!
The most striking thing in this piece is the unimaginably wide range of colors and emotions, which was considerably rare in baroque music. Unlike Bach’s Chaconne which is very well balanced with harmonic structure and aesthetic proportion, Vitali’s Chaconne modulates from one key to another constantly in such ease, its tentacles even reach keys like B flat minor and E flat minor!
Not only the unique modulations make it romantic, the singing elements also shine with the light of emotion. In the middle soft section, listeners almost have to be closer to the speaker in order to capture every little details of the whispery – so sweet, delicate, and vulnerable. In the end when the theme comes back with octaves, I could feel the roar from so deep in my soul spewing out desperately, as if the violin is trying to cry its heart out.
In Bach’s Chaconne, one can hardly find such direct expression; instead, the emotions were somehow spiritual and philosophical.
My first experience of recording Bach Chaconne happened four years ago in Chicago. I was in the concert hall alone and the recording facilities were all on. About five minutes before I played the Chaconne, I received a call from my dad, saying that my mom just got leukemia and might not live very long. I remember how hard it was to force myself hold the tears and start the first tragic D minor chord of the Chaconne, but once I started, my heart was filled with music and images. When the major section comes after the long-lasting storm like arpeggio passage, I can see the river reflects the gorgeous golden dusk. If one can possibly imagine how heaven looks like, this would be it. However, reality comes back after the beautiful dream. The sorrow of d minor lasts till the end of the Chaconne. Unlike the mournful beginning, the last section inherits both the tragedy from the first section, and the hope of the major section, which leads us into the final destination – the resurrection. In the past four years, I witnessed my mom’s illness and death, but every time I played Bach Chaconne, her image emerges to my heart. Thank you Bach, for teaching me that death is not the end, it is a beginning, beginning of a new world and new life experience, since I believe that she is in a better place now.
Czardas
Czardas is the representative work of Italian composer and violinist Vittorio Monti, who studied under a student of Niccolo Paganini. Czardas in a popular Hungarian dance tune which is originated from a village of Hungary called Csarda.
The piece opens with a rhapsodic slow minor tune on G string, followed by a contrasting theme in the major key in a free manner. (I did some improvisation in this section, which is common in Hungarian folk music) Then a brilliant Allegro vivo section jumps in suddenly, showing the virtuosity of the player. The piece also ends with such brilliance in an almost tarantella style, in which the dancer keep speeding up their paces until they fall down. One thing worth mentioning is that in the middle slow section, “stopped harmonic” technique is used to create a whistle effect.
Xiang Yu

Winner of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in 2010, violinist Xiang Yu is regarded as one of today’s most talented and creative young violinists in the world. His astonishing technique and exceptional musical talent have won him consistent critical acclaim (the StradString magazineBoston Globe, ect.) and enthusiastic audience response worldwide for his solo recitals, orchestral engagements, and chamber music performances.
In addition to winning Menuhin Competition and snaring the Bach Prize and Audience prize, Xiang also won the 2nd prize of Wieniawski International Violin Competition (2006) as the youngest prize winner; 3rd prize of Michael Hill International Violin Competition (2011); 2nd prize and the Best Commissioned Work Prize of 25th Irving M. Klein International String Competition; 1st prize and the Best Chamber Music Performance prize of the Baden-Württemberg International Music Competition (2005).
This past fall Xiang made his debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, captivating the audiences with his playing that combines passion and purity with an impeccable interpretation. He also appeared as a soloist with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Young-Euro Classic Orchestra, and the Oslo Philharmionic Orchestra.
As an active recitalist, Xiang has performed more than 20 concerts in venues throughout the world, including Konzerthaus Berlin (Germany), Shanghai Grand Theatre (China), Wianiwski Hall (Poland), the Grand Theatre of Calgary (Canada), Victoria Concert Hall (Singapore), Oslo Opera House & Troldsalen Bergen (Norway), Auckland Town Hall (New Zealand), Louvre Museum Auditorim (France), Bennett-Gordon Hall, Heinz Hall, and Boston Jordan Hall (USA).
In addition to his solo career, Xiang is also an enthusiastic chamber musician. Since the age of fourteen, he has regularly presented chamber music concerts in China with repertoire ranging from Joseph Haydn to Alfred Schnittke. His “Xiang Quartet” not only won the 1st prize of Bode Cup Chamber Music Competition, but also premiered many contemporary chamber music masterpieces in China, including Ullmann’s String Quartet No.3 and Hartmann’s String Quartet No.1.
Xiang has been invited to numerous world-renowned summer festivals such as Kronberg Academy (Germany), Verbier Academy(Switzerland), Yellow Barn Festival(USA), Morningside Music Bridge(Canada), Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival(USA). He has collaborated with such artists as Walter Levin, Zakhar Bron, Ana Chumachenco, Pamela Frank, Kim Kashkashian, Ida Kavafian, Frans Helmerson, and Christian Tetzlaff. In 2012/13 season, Xiang will be giving chamber music concert tours with Miriam Fried in New York, Chicago, New England, and Florida.
Born in Inner Mongolia, Mr. Yu moved to Shanghai at the age of 11 and received his early training from violinist Qing Zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory. A recipient of the Irene M. Stare Scholarship in Violin and NEC full scholarship, He is now finishing his bachelor degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston with Prof. Donald Weilerstein, and will be continue his studying at NEC as the only Artist Diploma Soloist in the next two years.

Li Wang

Competition Laureate Li Wang’s passionate and distinctively personal style has propelled him into the limelight as one of Canada’s finest young artists. This talented pianist has performed internationally as a soloist and chamber musician in the great music capitals of Europe, North America, and Asia. Critics and music aficionados are taking note of this pianist who brings such sensitivity to his work. Jonathon McPhee, music director of the Boston Ballet Company and Symphony of the Sea, prophesizes a bright future for Li Wang, “Li is an exceptional talent who has been turning heads around the world….”  (Jonathon McPhee, The Reporters)
Gold Medal winner of the Canadian Chopin Piano Competition, Li Wang has become a force to be reckoned with on the international competition circuit where he won the Silver Medal and Best Concerto Prize in the esteemed AXA Dublin International Piano Competition. He also received third prize in the 43rd Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona. Earning the distinction of being the only North American to be selected as a finalist at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition held in Budapest, he was also the only Canadian accepted to compete in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, where he distinguished himself as a Semi-Finalist. In 2003, Wang performed a benefit concert for Ethiopian famine relief in Toronto where his “flawless technique combined with his light touch to produce the most exquisite tonal effects.” (John Terauds, The Toronto Star)
Born in Beijing, Li discovered his passion for the piano while studying under his father, Yan-Qiao Wang, a composer of distinction in China. Li also studied with Huei-Qiao Bao, Shi-Zhen Ying, and Dan Shao while furthering his musical training at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music. Li Also studied under renowned pedagogues Hiroko Edo, Kiyoshi Arai, and Ya Huang in Japan, and Brigitte Engerer and Gabriel Tacchino in France at the Conservatoire Nationale Superieure de Musique in Paris. Mr Wang currently lives in Toronto, Canada where he has graduated from The Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School with an Artist’s Diploma. He is still under the tutelage of his former teacher, James Anagnoson. Perhaps Li Wang’s skills can best be encapsulated by respected musicologist Dr. Alan Walker’s observation that Li “was one of the few pianists to create that indefinable thing we call “atmosphere,” in which the pianist encloses the audience within his magic circle, casts his spell, and draws them into his dreams.”

 About the Recording:

This recording was made in a natural acoustic setting and recorded with analogue tape. Great care was taken to capture the true sound of the violin in a natural acoustic space. Our goal was to turn away from the current trend of heavily edited, sonically boosted, crystal clear digital releases. Hence, no track has been edited in any way – all tracks have been recorded in a single take. There has been no signal processing, no reverb added – the image & balance comes directly from the two microphones. These were a matched pair of Royer R-122v vacuum tube ribbon mics connected with custom made silver cables. The microphone preamp was a custom unit designed & built by tube maven Tony Ma. It is based on the Western Electric WE437a input tube & the WE300B output tube (2 of the best sounding tubes in audio). The use of a direct heating triode lets more of the real emotion of the music thru. It’s an all transformer coupled, capacitor-less design with custom wound silver input step-up, interstage & output transformers. All interconnects were custom made silver cables with an active powered shielding to reduce interference. The recorder was a 2 track Studer A80 running at 15ips on the NAB standard – the record amp was a custom unit based on the 6900 tube designed by Tony Ma. Duplication was performed one at a time to another Studer A80 using a custom tubed output stage driven by WE437a tubes – the resulting tape is a very close approximation of the master tape. We hope you enjoy the results.
Monitoring System:
STAX SRM 006tA vacuum tube electrostatic headphones were used on the tape machine. The total playback system electronics and interconnect cables were custom designed and built by Tony Ma.
The line stage was based on a pair of Western Electric WE300B’s with custom wound silver input, output transformers & Shalco volume controls.
The speakers were Quad ESL 63’s running full range powered by a pair of parallel, single-ended WE300B monoblock amplifiers. The subwoofers were custom designed by Focal using their Audiom 15WX drivers. The amplifier is based on the RCA 838 transmission tube.
The super high tweeters are JBL 2405 drivers sitting on the Quads. The amplifier is based on the RCA 826 transmission tube. All amplifiers are transformer coupled, capacitor-less designs utilizing the Western Electric WE 437a input tube, and all have custom wound silver input, interstage and output transformers.
The signal crossover was designed on a pair of WE 300B’s to split the signal at 15KHz and 80 Hz to the super-high and woofer respectively. Both run as additive to the Quads.
UltraAnalogue Recordings 2013
Credits:
Produced by Edward Pong, Xiang Yu
Recorded and mastered by Edward Pong
Recorded at Pong Studio on: Vitali Chaccone – April 20, 2013, Bach Chaccone – April 20, 2013, Monti Czardas – April 21, 2013
Notes by Xiang Yu
Many thanks to Tony Ma for his passion & genius in the design of the tubed mic pre-amp, tubed record & playback amps for the Studer A80 recorder & monitoring electronics
Many thanks to Roger Ginsley for his passion & technical support of this adventure.
For more information on UltraAnalogue Recordings, contact info@ultraanaloguerecordings.com

 

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