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poem from song dynasty: "die lian hua"

for soprano and chamber ensemble / 2017

This is my first art song, setting an classical Chinese poem from the Song Dynasty (11th century). The soprano, who co-commissioned this piece with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra, is my mother Yiping Chao.

The poem "Die Lian Hua" is a celebrated masterpiece by Ou-Yang Xiu (1007-1072). In fashion with the dominating expression of subtly in classical Chinese poetry, it expresses intense emotions and even critical social commentary through gentle metaphorical depictions of natural scenery. On the surface it appears to be the depiction of a young lady's sorrowful observation of late spring sceneries in a complex mansion:

How deep, deep is the deep courtyard lonely?
Amidst the mists, the willows weep sorely,
As if shielded by layers of curtains many.
With jade harness, he rides around on carved saddle;
High mansions block my view of the district of entertainment.

The rains and winds are raging in late spring;
Beyond the doors, dying sun sinks.
Shutting the door to cover the dusk, I am powerless to save spring from vanishing.
With teary eyes I ask of the flowers, but in vain;
Dying red petals fly o'er the swing again and again!

Through the poem, Ou-Yang Xiu sends a powerful message about his pity for young women in China during his time who were often victims of unfulfilling marriage, and possibly criticizes the oppression of women in the male-dominated feudal society of ancient China.





Yiping Chao, soprano

Odin String Quartet

Alex Toskov, violin
Tanya Charles, violin
Laurence Schaufele, viola
Sam Bisson, cello

Gillian Howard, oboe

Lucy Fang Lu, piano

Kevin Zi-Xiao He, directon


Recorded live at "East Meets West" Concert

Presented by the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra,

September 30, 2017

Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2017

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