Xiang Yu & Yun-Yang Lee

Schubert’s C major Fantasie for violin and piano always holds a unique place in my heart. Not only because of his extreme technical challenges, but also the astonishing emotional complexity. After performing this piece a few times in various occasions, it is particularly shocking to me that how few people have heard it in a live concert, and how much they love this piece wholeheartedly after listening to it eventually.

The Fantasie is widely regarded as THE most difficult work for piano and violin. Interestingly, it does not sound difficult at all even for most professional musicians when they hear it for the first time. It requires both the violinist and the pianist very specific types of technique, which in many ways, go against human physical tendency.

Taking the example of the very beginning of the piece, it already shows some unimaginable technical demand. The piano starts with soft, whispering tremolos, which last for measures and measures without stop. It truly is a task for the pianist – as if one has to lift up something weighs 1000 pounds with only 1 finger, yet for the listeners, it only sounds like a nice ripple-like effect. After a couple measures, the violin comes in with a long, long, long note which is basically the one thing a string player has to practice from the very beginning of the study till the end of his life. But to play it so soft, for so long, with such inner tension and beautiful at the same time, is another mission impossible. Yes, for most listeners, this is JUST one long note, but for the performer, it requires not only muscle strength, but also astonishing control of the bow, as well as a mastery breathing technique.

Yes, this is Schubert. It is already difficult to make something hard to sound hard, but it’s even harder to make something so difficult to sound nice and simple.

The slow/variation movement is the center of the fantasie. It comes from Schubert’s own song “Sei mir Gegrüsst” (I Greet you). However, the important “du” (you) is missing here; in other words, the person can not be greeted, or loved, touched…does it indicate that it is only in Schubert’s own fantasie? Or the person he wants to greet so much is somebody he can never see? Or he just simply can’t say these words to this particular person? We wouldn’t know, what we do know is Schubert’s unique personality – shy, overly self-conscious, yet has such complicated yearning for both life and death.

“The brightest hopes have come to naught, to whom the joy of love and friendship can offer nothing but pain at most…Every night as I retire to my bed, I always hope that I would not wake up. Yet every day, the morning breaks into the pains of yesterday’s wounds.”  —-Franz Schubert

Xiang Yu 2016

 

Xiang Yu

Winner of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in 2010, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu is regarded as one of today’s most talented and creative young violinists. His astonishing technique and exceptional musical talent have won him consistent critical acclaim and enthusiastic audience response worldwide for his solo recitals, orchestral engagements and chamber music performances.

 

In addition to winning First Prize as well as the Bach and Audience Prizes at the Menuhin Competition, Mr. Yu was awarded 3rd prize at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2011 and was the youngest prize winner at the Wieniawski International Violin Competition in 2006.

 

In North America, Angelo Xiang Yu’s recent and upcoming orchestral engagements include appearances with the Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver and Houston symphonies, as well as with the North Carolina, Alabama, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Grand Rapids, Toledo, Modesto, Tucson, Elgin, Binghamton and Lake Forest symphonies. In the summer of 2016, he participated for the second season in a row in Portland, Oregon’s Chamber Music Northwest festival and made his debut at the Green Music Center Chamberfest in Sonoma, California. Internationally, he has appeared with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, Munich Chamber Orchestra and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

An active recitalist and chamber musician, Mr. Yu has appeared in recital in Berlin, Paris, Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, Auckland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston. He has participated as a chamber musician in several of the world’s leading summer music festivals including the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Bergen Festival in Norway and Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, and attended the Kronberg Academy in Germany and the Perlman Music Program in New York. During the 12/13 season, Mr. Yu was invited to tour with Miriam Fried and chamber musicians from the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute and performed concerts in New York, Chicago, Florida and throughout New England. He was also recently featured as the Artist in Residence on American Public Media’s nationally broadcast radio program Performance Today.

 

Born in Inner Mongolia China, Angelo Xiang Yu moved to Shanghai at the age of 11 and received his early training from violinist Qing Zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory. Mr. Yu earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was the recipient of the Irene M. Stare Presidential Scholarship in Violin and was a student of Donald Weilerstein, Miriam Fried, Kim Kashkashian, and served as the teaching assistant of Donald Weilerstein. He was the only instrumentalist invited to be a candidate for NEC’s most prestigious Artist Diploma, which he was awarded in May 2014.

 

 

 

Yun-Yang Lee

Born in Taiwan, Yun-Yang started studying the piano at the age of six. He entered the Conservatoire Nationale Superieure de Music in Paris at 17 & graduated in 2004, with the “Diplôme de Formation Supérieure ” of Piano. He then started to study Chamber music and in 2005, he entered the “Cycle de Perfectionnement ” of Piano. In June 2006, he received the Diploma of Chamber music. In the same year, he worked with US violinist Sarah Kapustin and the cellist of Opera Orchestra of Paris, Clara Strauss, as Archiduc Trio.

He has studied with many renowned pianists and professors :
Albert Mühlböck, Charles Lilamand, Theodor Paraschivesco, Laurent Cabasso, Jean Mouillière, Alain Meunier, Xiao-Mei Zhu, Michel Strauss, & Vladimir Mendelssohn.

Lee has won numerous awards, some of which are: 
The First Prize in the 2nd Carl Czerny International Piano Competition in Prague; First Prize in the Concours Musical de France, the Brest, Forum de Normandie and FLAME Piano Competition in France and 3rd Prize of the Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona.

Lee has been invited to play in many festivals:
Paris Chopin Piano Festival, Peter the Great festival in Holland, “Les Journées Romantiques”, the Giverny Chamber Music Festival, “Les Journées Ravel”, Les journées musicales entre Loir et Loire, Wesserling muisc Festival, “La Musicale des Baous” & “Cycle musicale de Kersaint”

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 trio 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 2014

Credits:
Produced by Edward Pong
Recorded and mastered by Edward Pong
Recorded at Pong Studio on: Beethoven Violin Sonata No.3 – Sept 18 & 19, 2016, Beethoven Violin Sonata No.2 – Sept  20, 2016, Schubert Grand Fantasy – Sept. 18, 2016, Ravel Tzigane – Sept. 20, 2016
Notes by Xiang Yu
Photos by Edward Pong
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

 

Mozart Adagio K.261 & Rondo K.373

“Who is your favorite composer?”
Whenever I have interviews or Q&A session with the audience, this question remains the most popular one. To be honest, it is impossible to find answer, and it is true to most musicians – just because there are too many great ones! However, if there is one composer I feel so deeply connected to, so that I don’t even have to “think” about what he wrote down on the paper – I can just “feel” it naturally, as though our hearts are bounded together. For me, it is Mozart.

People say Mozart is a genius. From where I stand, he is the most “human” composer – his soul is not so different from us, he has all the emotions and desires as normal people do. But he is so capable of capturing the moments and melting them into music notes, that’s what makes him so special. His music is so natural that even those who had no classical music training or experiences can easily sense the emotions underneath the notes.

The Adagio in E major K. 261 and Rondo in C major K.373 are two of my favorite concert pieces since I was very little. The reason why I never touched them until recently is that both pieces are crafted so perfectly, and I was so scared to “ruin” them until I feel I’m ready to give it a try. Especially the Adagio – from pure violin technical aspect, any young children who have decent training for about 2 years are totally capable of playing every notes in this piece. However, there is a huge difference between “playing the right notes” and “playing them beautifully”. What always strikes me the most is the purity and simplicity of his music, which really touched the deepest chord in my heart. Today, everything gets bigger, faster, higher, more complicated, more color, more everything, the more the better! But Mozart always reminded me that sometimes happiness comes from the simplest thing in the world – sun, trees, rainfall, food, love… and he never afraid of revealing these most simple yet amazing things in his music.

Most of Mozart’s works are in Major keys, and everybody has the image of the “happy Mozart” in their mind. However, every time I hear or play the minor section of Mozart’s music, it touches me the most. In both the Adagio and the Rondo, minor key only comes for a couple of lines, but it is the very time Mozart is revealing his own vulnerability to us. He was not always a happy person from day to night – he had to fight for his bread and make a living as well. I always see him as a “sad soul”, but he pretend to be happy, or at least believed that the world is beautiful, and he wanted to bring as much happiness as possible to the people around him. That’s why when the vulnerable and melancholy minor key enters, it always brings tears to my eyes.

Both pieces are originally written for violin and orchestra. As you can hear in the tape, Yun-Yang is trying to make the piano sound more like an orchestra by imitating different characters of each instrument in different voices. It is not an easy task – imaging you have to pretend that you have 10 hands playing different instrument, but actually there is just one single keyboard sitting in front of you.

Mozart never really wrote cadenzas for any of the violin concertos and short pieces, and it is widely believed (as he is a great violinist) that he would improvise his own cadenzas and conducts the orchestra by himself in the concerts. Therefore, the cadenzas in this recording are composed by myself, and I hope you will enjoy them.

Beethoven Romance No. 2 – Sonata for Violin & Piano Nos. 5 & 7

Like the Adagio and Rondo, the Romance No.2 in F major by Beethoven is also written for violin and orchestra. He composed this piece slightly before 1798, almost a decade before his great Violin Concerto in D major, which is considered the ultimate work in violin repertoire. Even though it is in the early stage of Beethoven’s career and his style is still strongly influenced by Haydn and Mozart, we can already hear in the minor section (compared Mozart) his distinctive heroic and noble character, which was developed even further in the later years.

Both Yun-Yang and I were struggling so much with finding the right tempo for this particular piece. In most of the recordings today, the tempo is on the faster side, as Adagio doesn’t necessarily means “slow”, and the music flows better in a relatively faster pace. However, we decided to play it on the slow side, for the reason that we both were trying to imagine that we are playing in a large space and there is a big orchestra behind us, things should not get to light and easy. In addition, if the tempo gets fast, those 32nd note passages tend to sound too much like finger exercise. After all, it is important for our audience to have the time to “taste” every single moment before it’s gone.

Many violinists and pianists consider the Kreutzer Sonata as the most technically demanding and physically exhausting one among all ten Beethoven sonatas. For me, it is Sonata No.7 in C minor. The “uneasiness” feeling throughout the piece constantly makes me feel “uncomfortable” in many ways, yet so enjoyable to play at the same time!

C minor plays such a big role in Beethoven’s career – the Fifth Symphony, Sonata Pathétique, the Third Piano Concerto…it is clear that this particular key gives him the strongest rein to express his “inescapable fate” motive. It is also believed that around the time he composed this sonata, he already started to realize his approaching deafness.

The sonata begins with a dark, mysterious motive, which is answered by 3 beats of silence. To my ears, Beethoven’s use of silence has such an immense power (in my opinion, much more than fortissimo) – it never stop the music completely; instead, it always increases the intensity. On the other hand, the silence is like a shock. During the rests, we can’t stop thinking “What just happened? What’s going to happen?” It creates such an agitated feeling which enhances the mystery.

The continuous octave passage in the end of first movement always gives pianists such a hard time due to its unimaginable difficulty and awkwardness. I keep thinking why most of his works are so demanding in various ways. The famous Violin Concerto barely even has double stops! And if you look carefully, it is all filled with scales and arpeggios, that’s what we learn when we first start playing the violin! It still remains somewhat of a mystery to me. However, if one argues that the reason is Beethoven was not a particularly good violinist, then why would he write even harder stuff for the piano? He is definitely more than a decent pianist. My theory is somewhat simple – he is looking for a sense of struggle without “trying”. Just imagine if a certain passage gives a performer a sense of difficulty, not only the performer, but also the audience would feel it. What is important is that Beethoven is so good at creating such natural difficulty so that we don’t even have to try to make it sounds “struggle”, it just happens naturally!

It is easy to make something beautiful with pearl, gold, and diamond, but genius like Beethoven always uses the simplest material to make perfection. When we look at the theme of the slow movement – four fragmented phrases, which could easily sound repetitive and boring. But Beethoven add some simple dynamics – completely against what our instinct tells us to do, and thus connected these four fragments into one complete, perfect, and beautiful theme.

If you think Beethoven is lack of humor, then the third movement can really change your mind. Based on a German country-dance, he starts the movement with off-beat dotted figure, one can never guess what meter it is – sounds almost like duple but it is actually triple. In addition, he put accents consecutively to even enlarge the confusion. At the end, he finally revealed his trick and everyone starts to smile.

Every time I perform the last movement of this sonata, my blood starts to boil. The tempo marking is very fast, and it’s in cut time; the Coda is even marked Presto – the fury and breathless quality never stops throughout the movement. What is interesting in the movement is that once the tempo starts to rush, the intensity disappears immediately. And believe me, it is so easy to play fast and rush in this movement, since it is like a wild horse – easy to let go but hard to control. Even in the code, once we give everything out at once, it almost sounds like we give it up rather than increasing the intensity and never know where it ends. It is so fascinating, almost like Kung-fu or Tai-chi – when a great master fights, he only shows 10 percent of what he has in the beginning, and that usually scares the rival even more, as one could never guess how deep the water is!

The Sonata for Violin and Piano No.5 “Spring” is probably one of the most popular violin pieces by Beethoven in concerts today. The opening melody is breathtakingly beautiful – most people remember that melody right after they hear it and never forget it. In the previous four sonatas, Beethoven decided to let the piano led the theme, and violin comes after, but this time, he decided to let the violin dominants in the beginning.

Although the opening melody makes everyone thinking of all the great things about spring – flowers, trees, and brooks, I really don’t think this first movement is much about spring. In fact, it is not clear who gives this particular title to the sonata, certainly not Beethoven himself. Right after the second theme begins, a repetitive eighth note figure appears, indicating the inner tension in Beethoven’s soul, as well as his famous “fate” character, which is much more identical in many of his later works. Besides, the triplets area in the development section clearly illustrates a stormy intensity which seems so far away from the “Spring”. Therefore, my own interpretation to this movement is not based on the “beautiful” spring; instead, I value the “struggle” part to a great extent, so that when the storm goes away, and the theme finally comes back, then it really feels like a real long-expected spring.

In my opinion, the 3rd and last movements probably represent much more aspects of spring. In these two movements, Beethoven demonstrates his unique humor to us – bouncing from violin to piano from off-beat in the third movement; dotted, dance-like figure in the last movement.

My close friends keep telling me that I have a very old soul – always love slow movements. I have to admit it, especially when it’s written beautifully just as the second movement of the Spring Sonata. We often see a lot of struggles and obsessive feelings in the fast movements of Beethoven’s works, while in the slow movements he really opens his heart and takes us to an emotional journey. Like the Mozart pieces, the most special and touching moment is when the minor key comes – the D flat emerged to our ears with the most magical transition in the piano part, turning the harmony to a completely surreal, shadowy color. But only after two bars, an extremely warm and sunshine-like A flat takes us to the six flat major key – which is one of the furthest keys you can ever think of to the key signature of this movement. The harmony keeps changing, the light and shadow alternates as if he is trying to search for an answer, an answer that he spent all his life to find through his music. We don’t know what it really is, but does it matter? Life is not a race to the finish line, it is a journey, and the most beautiful things lay along the way.

Xiang Yu 2015

Xiang Yu

Winner of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in 2010, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu is regarded as one of today’s most talented and creative young violinists. His astonishing technique and exceptional musical talent have won him consistent critical acclaim and enthusiastic audience response worldwide for his solo recitals, orchestral engagements and chamber music performances.

In addition to winning First Prize as well as the Bach and Audience Prizes at the Menuhin Competition, Mr. Yu was awarded 3rd prize at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2011 and was the youngest prize winner ever at the Wieniawski International Violin Competition in 2006.

Angelo Xiang Yu’s recent orchestral engagements include appearances with the Pittsburgh and Houston symphonies, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, Munich Chamber Orchestra and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. During the 15/16 season, he makes his debuts with the Toronto, Vancouver, North Carolina, Alabama, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Grand Rapids, Toledo, Modesto and Lake Forest symphonies, and will participate as a chamber musician at the Chamber Music Northwest festival in Portland, Oregon.

An active recitalist and chamber musician, Mr. Yu has appeared in recital in Berlin, Paris, Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, Auckland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston. He has participated as a chamber musician in several of the world’s leading summer music festivals including the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Bergen Festival in Norway and Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, and attended the Kronberg Academy in Germany and the Perlman Music Program in New York. During the 12/13 season, Mr. Yu was invited to tour with Miriam Fried and chamber musicians from the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute and performed concerts in New York, Chicago, Florida and throughout New England. He was also recently featured as the Artist in Residence on American Public Media’s nationally broadcast radio program Performance Today.

Born in Inner Mongolia, Angelo Xiang Yu moved to Shanghai at the age of 11 and received his early training from violinist Qing Zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory. He is currently studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he is the recipient of the Irene M. Stare Presidential Scholarship in Violin and is a student of Donald Weilerstein and Kim Kashkashian. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in 2012, Mr. Yu was one of two instrumentalists invited to be a candidate for NEC’s prestigious Artist Diploma, which he was awarded in May 2014. He began working towards a Masters Degree at NEC in the fall of 2014.

Yun-Yang Lee

Born in Taiwan, Yun-Yang started studying the piano at the age of six. He entered the Conservatoire Nationale Superieure de Music in Paris at 17 & graduated in 2004, with the “Diplôme de Formation Supérieure ” of Piano. He then started to study Chamber music and in 2005, he entered the “Cycle de Perfectionnement ” of Piano. In June 2006, he received the Diploma of Chamber music. In the same year, he worked with US violinist Sarah Kapustin and the cellist of Opera Orchestra of Paris, Clara Strauss, as Archiduc Trio.

He has studied with many renowned pianists and professors :
Albert Mühlböck, Charles Lilamand, Theodor Paraschivesco, Laurent Cabasso, Jean Mouillière, Alain Meunier, Xiao-Mei Zhu, Michel Strauss, & Vladimir Mendelssohn.

Lee has won numerous awards, some of which are:
The First Prize in the 2nd Carl Czerny International Piano Competition in Prague; First Prize in the Concours Musical de France, the Brest, Forum de Normandie and FLAME Piano Competition in France and 3rd Prize of the Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona.

Lee has been invited to play in many festivals:
Paris Chopin Piano Festival, Peter the Great festival in Holland, “Les Journées Romantiques”, the Giverny Chamber Music Festival, “Les Journées Ravel”, Les journées musicales entre Loir et Loire, Wesserling muisc Festival, “La Musicale des Baous” & “Cycle musicale de Kersaint”

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 trio 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 2014

Credits:
Produced by Edward Pong
Recorded and mastered by Edward Pong
Recorded at Pong Studio on: Beethoven Romance, Mozart Adagio & Rondo – Dec 1, 2014, Beethoven Violin Sonata No.5 & 7, Dec 2 & 3, 2014
Notes by Xiang Yu
Photos by Edward Pong
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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