Friday, May 14, 2021, 8 pm
at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


Xiaopei Xu 徐小培,  pianist






Program ~

J.S.Bach/Franz Liszt:
Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542

Schubert/Franz Liszt:
Three Lieder Transcriptions
Gretchen am Spinnrade
Der Müller und der Bach

Florence Price/Chi Wei Lo:
Paraphrase on “Resignation”

George Gershwin/Earl Wild:
Two Virtuoso Etudes on Gershwin Songs
“Embraceable You”
“Fascinating Rhythm”

~ intermission ~

 F. Schubert:
Piano Sonata No.20 In A Major, D. 959
I. Allegro
II. Andantino
III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace - Trio: Un poco più lento
IV. Rondo: Allegretto

"Brilliant Clarity from Xiaopei Xu":
"Xiaopei Xu is one strong pianist. Friday night at the Gardner Museum she took a chisel to a range of pieces and delivered incised, everywhere lapidary performances of Bach-Liszt, Schubert-Liszt, Price-Lo, Gershwin-Wild, Schubert, and Waller. "
"The BU DMA student, commenced with an exemplary, as in could-hardly-be-improved rendition of Liszt’s transcription of Bach’s S.542 Fantasy and Fugue. I swear: in all of my hours spent at Bach organ recitals I have not heard better rhythmic strength, voice clarity, and drive than this. … with Bach playing like this, she placed a prominent marker."
"Florence Price’s powerful song "Resignation"("My life is a pathway of sorrow …") received its own highly imaginative embellishments, indeed a paraphrase, by Xu’s colleague, the pianist and improviser Chi Wei Lo. The beautiful result even featured effective soft vocalizing by the pianist."
- David Moran of The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Foundation for
Chinese Performing Arts



photos : Chi Wei Lo

photos : Chung Cheng

It felt very special playing a live concert at the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall last night. Even though the capacity was still limited to 64, I truly enjoyed the intimate chemistry and the warmth from everyone in the space. Thank you so much, Dr. Cathy Chan, for having me! -Xiaopei@FB

Xiaopei Xu 徐小培,  pianist
"A sensitive pianist and talented artist." — Martha Argerich

Hailed by the Boston Music Intelligencer as “a spellbinding and expressive pianist”, Xiaopei Xu has been featured as a soloist on three continents, striving for creativity in her artistic expression. She made her Boston Symphony Hall debut in 2018, performing Chopin Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor with Maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops.

Xu has received international acclaim with top prizes at the New York International Piano Competition, Oberlin International Piano Competition, Tureck International Bach Competition, and the Washington D.C. International Young Artist Competition. She has also performed at festivals including Pianofest in the Hamptons, PianoTexas, Banff Music Centre, Sarasota Music Festival, Russia Young Artist Festival, and the Walnut Hill Music Festival in Boston.

In addition to her musical endeavors, Xu integrates her love for visual arts with music, creating multidisciplinary collaborations as a way to enhance the artistic experience. A painter herself, she has been commissioned for several installations and collaborative projects. Xu created a combined art and concert experience at the Germany Society of Pennsylvania, as well as an exhibition of her artwork in “The Seven Deadly Sins,” a themed concert at the New England Conservatory. Collections of her drawings have been published by the Clara Haskil Competition’s Jeune Critique.

Xu currently resides in Boston and is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Boston University. She holds a Master’s degree from Yale University and a Bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. Her principal teachers include Boaz Sharon, Hung-Kuan Chen, Meng-Chieh Liu, and Xun Pan. She has also worked with influential musicians such as Claude Frank, Richard Goode, Andrea Bonatta, Russell Sherman, and Paul Badura-Skoda.

Notes on the Program
by Dr. Jannie Burdeti

copyright© Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts

Johann Sebastian Bach/Franz Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542

“I thought this art had died, but I see that in you it still lives,” exclaimed the great Dutch organ-ist Johann Adam Reincken upon hearing Bach improvise for “almost half an hour” on the cho-rale An Wasserflüssen Babylon in Hamburg in 1720. This compliment would surely have made an impression on Bach, who had held the Dutch organist in high regard since his younger days—in fact, one of Bach’s earliest-known manuscripts, from 1700, is none other than Bach’s own copy of Reincken’s massive chorale fantasia on An Wasserflüssen Babylon. While this event in 1720 marked the first time both organists met, Bach had actually traveled to Hamburg for a different reason—he came to audition for the post of organist at St. Jakob’s church. During his audition, Bach improvised a fugue on the Dutch folk tune “Ik ben gegroet,” which later was written down and became the Fugue in G minor of BWV 542. Many scholars believe that the folk tune that formed the basis of the fugue was chosen as an homage to Reincken, who was al-so present at the audition. Even if Bach astonished everyone with his performance, he did not get the job, due to factors that were beyond his control.

Often nicknamed “Great” to differentiate it from the “Little” Fugue in G minor, Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, is a major work for the organ both in scope and in the facility required of the performer. The Fantasia is dark and tragic, and the writing is quasi-improvisatory, yet Bach is as disciplined as ever in his construction and in adhering to the traditions of the North German organ school. Between declamatory outbursts, toccata-like passages are contrast-ed with more serene and controlled fugato sections. The Fantasia ends with a Picardy third, launching the listener into a lighthearted yet impressive fugue featuring two countersubjects and a jubilant conclusion. Needless to say, to hear Bach improvise this fugue at his audition must have been a mind-blowing experience.

In Liszt’s hands, Bach’s work translates seamlessly from the organ to the piano. Without the or-gan pedals at his disposal, Liszt was forced to move some voices around. That being said, his arrangement captures the essence of Bach’s work in what can only be described as a splendid tour de force.

Franz Schubert/Franz Liszt: Lieder Transcriptions
Gretchen am Spinnrade
Der Müller und der Bach

Schubert devoted himself to the lied (song genre), composing more than 600 of them during his short life of 31 years. These works for the voice and piano encompass a vast emotional and dramatic scope and are in many ways great operas in miniature form. Tonight, they are heard in the solo piano version, as transcribed by Franz Liszt, another great dramatist, who wrote most of his Schubert transcriptions when he was in Schubert’s hometown of Vienna between 1838 and 1839.

Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), written when Schubert was 17 and later published as his Opus 2, was his very first setting of a poem from Goethe, a poet and play-wright who captivated the composer’s mind. In this particular song, Schubert sets the text from a scene in Goethe’s tragic play Faust. The song depicts a young girl, Gretchen, at her spinning wheel, distraught as she obsesses over Faust, with whom she is madly in love. The spinning wheel is heard throughout the work, a haunting and obsessive sixteenth-note pattern, reflecting her turbulent thoughts. The left hand imitates the sound of the foot treadle, or perhaps a pound-ing heart. Gretchen sings over this accompaniment, full of yearning for her lover, Faust, whom she has only met briefly on the street. She is overwhelmed with emotion, yearning for Faust again, in this monologue: “My peace is gone, my heart is heavy; never, but never again, shall I find peace. Where I do not have him, that is the grave, the whole world is bitter to me.” The song climaxes as she sings, “And ah, his kiss!”

Der Müller und der Bach (The Miller and the Stream) belongs to the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin (The Fair Maid of the Mill), based on poems by Wilhelm Müller. It was written when Schubert was bedridden and sick with syphilis at the age of 26. He was not only suffering from the symptoms of the disease: he had also lost his hair due to a mercury treatment and was in fear of losing his reputation and relationships with friends. (Explaining Schubert’s plight, Graham Johnson writes that the modern equivalent of syphilis would be HIV or AIDS.) The poem here portrays the conversation between a distraught and heartbroken young man, the Miller, and a kindly brook that tries to comfort him. The dialogue begins with the Miller saying to the brook: “Where a true heart dies of love, there lilies wither on every bed; then must the full moon go behind the clouds so that men do not see her tears; then angels cover their eyes, and sob and sing the soul to rest.” The stream replies: “And when love escapes from pain, a little star, a new one, shines in the heaven: then there spring up three roses, half red and half white, that will nev-er wither again, from the thorns, and the angels cut off their wings and every morning go down to the earth.”

Erlkönig (Erlking), based on another poem by Goethe, was published as Schubert’s Opus 1 alt-hough it was written after Gretchen am Spinnrade. The poem tells the story of a young boy who is riding on a horse late at night with his father. The repeated octaves create an atmosphere of drama and terror resounding in the pounding steps of the horse. The child is terrified as he sees and hears the Erlking, a supernatural being who tries to lure him with promises of games and rewards. However, his father, who does not see the creature, reassures him that it must be some-thing else he hears and that it is nothing to worry about. In the end, the Erlking takes the child by force, harming him as he cries to his father for help, prompting the father to ride with great haste to their destination. Upon their arrival, however, he realizes that the child has died in his arms. There are four characters in the piece: narrator, father, son, and the Erlking. This work has been a great favorite ever since Schubert conceived it, and Liszt performed it on many concert tours, including in Leipzig, Prague, London, Berlin, and St. Petersburg.

Musicologist Alan Walker has interestingly noted that Liszt always adamantly insisted that the poem be printed in the solo piano version. In 1838, when Haslinger printed the poems apart from the score, on the inside of the front cover, Liszt immediately requested that the publication be reprinted with the words under the notes, exactly as Schubert himself had written in his orig-inal score.

George Gershwin/Earl Wild: Two Virtuoso Etudes
“Embraceable You”
“Fascinating Rhythm”

The only pianist to have ever played for six consecutive US presidents, virtuoso Earl Wild (1915–2010) held a deep affinity and passion for the music of George Gershwin. His love of Gershwin’s music began at the age of 27, while he was touring with Arturo Toscanini as the pia-nist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra. He was invited by Toscanini to perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. After a resounding success, Wild went on to become a champion of his music and wrote a number of Gershwin-inspired works throughout his life, including “Improvisations on Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Grand Fantasy on Porgy and Bess,” and perhaps most fa-mously, his “Seven Virtuoso Etudes.”

“Embraceable You” is the fourth work in the set of etudes. The writing is prelude-like, with its flowing, seemingly extemporaneous arabesques and the melody floating in the treble register. Harmonic inflections within the arpeggios create a kaleidoscope of colors. After a chromatic middle section that hints at Rachmaninov, the theme resurfaces, but this time in octaves, bring-ing with it increased intensity. After a moment of stillness, the coda makes for a bittersweet moment, when the arpeggios that began the piece are recalled one last time.

The last piece in the set of etudes is “Fascinating Rhythm.” A chromatic introduction sets the scene for the iconic theme. Gershwin’s older brother, Ira, is said to have commented, “For God’s sake, George, what kind of lyric do you write to a rhythm like that?” It is amusing to contem-plate what Ira would have said in response to Earl Wild’s virtuosic rewriting of the piece. The first complete statement of the theme can be heard in the right hand while the left hand plays a ragtime-style accompaniment. The thematic material returns under different guises, with each variation focusing on different rhythmic transformations. For example, in one rendition of the theme, the left hand plays an ostinato made up of a group of three eighth notes against the mel-ody’s quadruple-meter drive. This metric displacement gives rise to a polyrhythmic feel that would indeed qualify as a fascinating rhythm! As the piece reaches its conclusion, the theme is stated one last time, only to be interrupted by a staccato sequence reaching the highest register of the piano. From then on, the music spirals downward, an inversion of the ascending introduc-tion. This sequence eventually reaches the lowest note of the piece, B-flat, concluding the etude with a satisfying major-ninth chord.

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959
I. Allegro
II. Andantino
III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace - Trio: Un poco più lento
IV. Rondo: Allegretto

“Franz Schubert, in his late piano sonatas, is revealed more as a listener than a speaker, the ‘heavenly length’ being that open-ended time it takes for a person to respond to the suffering of another. The composer and performer thus enter into an intimate communion of hearts, and the audience can only ever be eavesdroppers.” —Stephen Hough

Schubert’s last three piano sonatas (D. 958, D. 959, D. 960), String Quintet in C major, and Schwanengesang song cycle were among the last works he finished before his passing in 1828 at the tragically young age of 31—only one year after Beethoven’s death. While all three sonatas are cyclically constructed, the A-major Sonata is most evidently so.

The arresting opening of the A-major sonata’s first movement exudes both grandeur and optimism. The energetic leaps in the bass that begin the work serve as an important rhythmic motive throughout the rest of the piece. Interestingly, most of these cyclic connections were added in later, after Schubert already had a working draft of the sonata. Musicologist Maurice Brown argues that, based on the sketches, there is substantial evidence that Schubert wrote the last movement first, then the first one. The second theme of the sonata unfolds into a gentle and tender song—a lied. The development, which contains some of the most magical and scintillating moments in the movement, makes use of material from the second theme and oscillates between the key areas of C and B major.

In contrast to the joy, life, and enthusiasm of the opening movement, the second movement makes audible the terror, fear, and sadness that Schubert must have been facing, writing this sonata during the last months of his life. Beginning with a lonely barcarolle, the movement soon whirls into its own madness. Pianist Alfred Brendel and musicologist William Kinderman both draw parallels to Goya’s painting 3rd of May, 1808, where an opposition between irrational brutality and defenseless humanity is present. After the intensity of the moment subsides, a short time of stasis gives an opportunity for a low trill to emerge. The movement ends with a restatement of the opening barcarolle, but this time with bells of fate.

If the second movement remains one of the darkest compositions ever to have been written, the third movement almost flaunts its giddiness, with the exception of one fleeting outbreak, recalling the not-so-distant past. The middle trio section makes use of the motivic leap from the very opening of the first movement, but this time inverted.

Charles Rosen and Edward T. Cone have noted that the last movement of the sonata is structurally modeled after Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 31, No. 1. The movement begins with Schubert in his element as a song composer, the music filled with lyricism and long flowing textures. András Schiff describes the experience as Schubert taking music out of the room and into nature—a symbol of the flowing of water and all that it carries. Indeed, the composer’s appreciation of nature—a recurring theme of the Romantics, who were seeking to restore man’s relationship with the natural world—can be seen in many of his letters to family. However,
behind the purity of this symbol, the horrors of the second movement return, before the storm subsides reluctantly. The closing section, with its hesitations and silences, is astonishing, as if the singing stops mid-breath and is unable to continue. The coda brings the work to a close with an exhilarating rush to the end, and the motivic leap from the opening of the sonata makes a triumphant return.
triumphant return.

copyright© Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts


Florence Price/Chi Wei Lo: Paraphrase on “Resignation”
by Chi-Wei Lo
copyright© Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts

In June, 1933, after winning the Wanamaker Foundation Awards with her Symphony in E minor (premiered by the Chicago Symphony), Florence Price became the first black female composer to have her work performed by a major orchestra. She graduated in 1906 with honors from the New England Conservatory, where she majored in piano and organ. She later became the head of the music department in Clark Atlanta University, before finally settling down in Chicago. She worked extensively with African-American poet and writer, Langston Hughes, and was a teacher and a friend of fellow female composer, Margaret Bonds.

The spirit of this arrangement is in line with Price’s original poem for “Resignation”:

“My life is a pathway of sorrow;
I’ve struggled and toiled in the sun
with hope that the dawn of tomorrow
would break on a work that is done.
For ever the woe that it caused
I’m tired and want to go home.
My mother and sister are there;
They’re waiting for me to come
Where mansions are bright and fair.”

Allow me to build upon Price’s spirit with my own poem, which also serves as a road map for this transcription.

In my journey, I have seen arrays of chaos;
My body has been washed,
By invisible scars.
My soul is stuck,
Underneath malicious rocks and crooked trees;
Anxious to get somewhere else;
aching to fly.
I see the clear skies; I feel the carefree winds;
I smell the earth, and I can almost touch the shining stars.
Give us a little more time and we will reach;

Chi-Wei Lo

copyright© Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts


   查詢: 中華表演藝術基金會會長譚嘉陵, 電話: 781-259-8195


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updated 2021