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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Alumna Offers Violin Recital at UCSB

Chiao-Ling Sun.
Chiao-Ling Sun.

Professor Chiao-Ling Sun will play a violin recital in Karl Geiringer Hall, at UCSB. (Used with permission)

Violinist Chiao-Ling Sun (DMA 2001, UCSB) will play a recital with pianist Charles Asche, of the UCSB faculty, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, in Karl Geiringer Hall, on the UCSB campus.

Sun and Asche will perform works by Wolfgang Mozart, Claude Debussy, Chen Gang and He Zhan-Hao, Tyzen Hsiao, Johannes Brahms and Sze Kuo-Cheng.

If the Asian names on the program get you thinking of elegant, abstract modernism à la Toru Takemitsu or Chou-Wen Chung, think again. You are more likely to be reminded of Rachmaninov, Rodrigo, or Thomson (Virgil).

Chen Gang (born 1935) met He Zhan Hao (born 1933) in the late 1950s, when both were studying composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Together with several of their classmates, they formed a violin experimental group.

In 1959, Chen and He collaborated on a violin concerto they called “The Butterfly Lovers,” which was not only the most memorable composition to come from their violin commune, but was destined to become the best-known and most popular work of Chinese classical music, a status it retains to this day.

The work is lushly romantic, lively and tuneful, and overall fresh as a spring morning.

Since I could find evidence of no other collaboration between Chen and He, I assume it is “The Butterfly Lovers” we will hear this Friday evening, most likely in the violin-piano reduction made in 1962 by Shengyou Guan (1943–2011).

Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao (1938-2015) is known as Taiwan's Rachmaninov.

It is curious to note that, while Chen and He seemed to have survived the violent political and cultural uphevals that have swept across mainland Red China since the 1930s, and are still alive in their 80s, it was the free world's ally, Taiwan, which for awhile banned performances of Hsiao's works and forbade him to return to the island from the United States, whence he and his wife had fled when one of her business deals went disastrously south.

In 1988, toward the end of his nearly 20-year sojourn in the U.S., Hsiao brought out his “Violin Concerto in D-Major, Opus 50,” which turned out to be the first violin concerto ever written by a Taiwanese composer.

Like “The Butterfly Lovers,” it is a gorgeously romantic work making brilliant use of folk melodies.

There is a marvelous violin-piano reduction, and it may be this which Sun will play for us, although it might also be either Hsiao's “Nocturne for Violin and Piano” or his “Fantasy Heng-Chhun Melody," both of which are beyond exquisite.

Admission to this recital is free. For further information, contact the UCSB AS Ticket Office, 805-893-2064, or email them at [email protected]

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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