left: Cornelia Herrmann; right: Regina Flores, Prof. Noel Flores, Kiera Thompson
Viennese pianist Cornelia Herrmann performed twice in the D.C., including a recital at the Austrian Embassy and a Mozart Concerto with the Annapolis Symphony conducted by Jose-Luis Novo, and the Toledo Symphony, conducted by Stefan Sanderling. I decided to attend when I discovered that she had worked with Prof. Noel Flores while attending the University of Music in Vienna. Prof. Flores passed away a year ago, May 19, 2012, and it seemed fitting to remember him with a meeting of those who knew him.
Ms. Herrmann framed the Embassy concert with the G major French Suite and the French Overture in B minor of J.S. Bach. Schubert Impromptu’s, the Beethoven Pathetique, and a new work written for her by Christian Ehrenfellner filled the program. The standout for me was the Bach. Ms. Herrmann plays without mannerism, and is very direct and forceful in her approach. The engines that Bach creates in the Courante and Gigue of the G Major are allowed to develop their own steam. She delivers the musical goods, and I was grateful to hear the performance. The Mozart C minor concerto had a similar approach, was unhurried, and her chamber music sensitivity especially paid off in the ensembles with winds and piano.
The focus of this trip was the visit to Guizhou University, in Guiyang. Guiyang, located in the far southern mountains of China, sits at 3000 ft above sea level and enjoys cool breezes and very clean air year round. The university is in a sylvan and mountainous setting. Professor Jian Feng Wang, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, was my host. My assistant and companion for the time at the school was the linguistics grad student, Xu Tao. Xu Tao was a marvelous guide, and a great conversationalist on all subjects from culture, language, international affairs, and human nature. Aside from getting me from one place to the next, he took me on a guided tour of the nearby medieval village of Qinq Yan in the nearby mountains.
The final concert included a marvelous performance of Chick Corea’s Spain featuring the wonderful erhu soloist Ren Jie. She understand this piece beautifully and we put it together in a single rehearsal.
My visits to Shanghai inevitably focus on my latest compositions, in this case the “Suite Shanghai Nights” collection. I wrote this specifically with saxophonist Wilson Chen in mind. His superb work on the Shakespeare Sonnet Song Cycle is still ringing in my ears, and I wanted to take things a step further. Here are the videos, recorded from the April 4 performance. Wang Bai Ling, soprano; Wilson Chen, sax; EJ Parker, bass; Chris Trczinski, drums, Burnett Thompson, composer & pianist.
Many thanks to Professor Jian Feng Wang for arranging a visit to Guizhou Ethnic University in Guiyang on April 7 and 8, 2013. The encounter included an impromptu singing and performance session with a crowd of students, and then an official concert. Certainly the highlight of the concert was an interlude presentation by the students of a folk song in full regalia. The university is in a beautiful setting in the wetlands bordered by sharply rising mountains on all sides. Erhu faculty member Chen Jia and I collaborated on 良宵 by Liu Tian Hua刘天华。It is hard to explain the warm welcome I received from both students and faculty and I hope I can spend more time with them in the future.
Back at a favorite spot, Central China Normal University, followed by a concert at Wuhan University. The students at CCNU were absolutely fabulous, and we had the good fortune of two performances of the same program, first at CCNU, then Wuhan Univ. Listen to some outtakes:
A reprise of the Nov. 2011 Ningbo concert took place on April 6, 2012. Included in this concert was the debut of Zhang Dawei on double bass. Dawei, a piano student at the university, took the jazz class and learned the blues in 3 days, having never even touched the double bass. With the aid of the irrepressible Tom Smith, director of the jazz program at Ningbo University, the three of us fleshed out the “Butternut Blues”.
Again the remarkable Wang Lei Lei sang two folk songs and gave an unforgettable performance of “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”…but in Chinese and French, likely a first for this song. Wang Jian Qiao and I put together a fresh look at a traditional Chinese piece, Chu Yue Xiao Ge (New Year’s Song) with a visit from the Beatles “Norwegian Wood”。 We were also joined again by Song Wen Yue for “Spain” and “Jiang He Shui”.
My colleague Ephriam Wolfolk and I had the good fortune to perform for a small get together at the Library of Congress on May 15, 2012. The occasion was the Gershwin Award bestowed on Mr. Bacharach. We had the immense pleasure to chat for awhile, specifically about the asymetrical song forms (he didn’t plan them) and his stint at Mannes College in the late forties. He was a student of Martinu, among others, and hung out in the jazz rooms at night to hear Diz, Bird, etc. A great life, and great training. Anyway, I arranged his tunes so that he alone would even recognize them. Which he did, and they were definitely a conversation starter.
Here they are, performed live. Burnett Thompson, piano; Ephriam Wolfolk, bass. The words of Burt Bacharach conclude the “Walk on By” mp3.
Burnett Thompson and Friends in Concert
November 25, 2011
*Wang Yi Ni, vocal ; Wang Lei Lei, vocal, *Wang Jian Qiao, erhu; *Song Wen Yue, erhu; Tom Smith, trombone and Jazz Department Director; *You Peng Wei, *Zhou Yu, *Xu Ying Ying, percussion (* students at Ningbo University)
I met Yu Hui at Shenyang Normal University last year, and after his arrival as Dean of the School of Arts at Ningbo University, he suggested I come to the school and participate in his new jazz program. Hence two weeks of teaching, rehearsals, lectures, and performances, including the “American Jazz Music Week” (美国爵士音乐周). The Jazz week included 6 performances, including a student concert, a couple of presentations by the remarkable trombonist Professor Tom Smith, my own lecture on Chinese & American music histories, and concluded with a big concert hosted by your truly. From a personal perspective, this was one of the biggest highlights of 9 tours in China, and I have Yu Hui to thank for this rewarding experience.
My goal as expressed to Yu Hui was to present the jazz piano course in Mandarin Chinese. He in turn set up a daily two hour class, followed by two hours of rehearsals every day. I conducted these sessions entirely in Chinese, with the generous assistance of the students who helped me with the technical vocabulary and general pronunciations.
The highlight of the trip was my Introduction to Jazz Piano Class, which included 12 students. We met every day for 2 hours. A close second was the two-hour daily rehearsals with a pair of erhu players and two singers.
Above: Yu Hui; jazz piano class: 张大卫,朱佳，周琳， 周舒怡， 尤鹏玮，聂小涵，温馨，罗洁，，袁金宝，温馨 周余 徐莹莹, B.T., not present: 李化阳; Prof. Yang, translator Xin Chen, Prof. Zhong, Tom Smith, translator Ke Jin, B.T.; Concert: Wang Lei Lei, B.T., Song Wen Yue