Critically acclaimed Chinese classical guitarist Xuefei Yang wants her presence to become more known to Korean audiences with her latest album, “Heartstrings.”
A big-time classical music icon across Asia and parts of Europe, Yang is considered one of the classical guitar world’s leading musicians, having been acclaimed as among the “most extraordinary instrumentalists in the world” and the “most impressive advocate for her instrument.”
Yet, in Korea, the 38-year-old guitarist has yet to establish a sizeable following.
“I think in Korea, I’m only really known to those who are fans of classical guitar music,” said Yang during an interview with The Korea Herald last week. “However, the few times I have played in Korea, I could look out in the audience and see how genuine and passionate Korean people are about music, so I’m hoping to make my awareness more known here and add a lot for tour dates in Korea in the future.”
Xuefei Yang (Universal Music)
For “Heartstrings,” her first solo album in more than seven years released this summer, Yang chose her personal favorite songs and interpreted them for the solo guitar. Getting her hands into every aspect of the album-making process including song selection, transcribing, playing and even producing, the guitarist said this album is a perfect representation of who she is as an artist.
“Each one of the songs on this album just pulls at my heartstrings,” she said. “I wanted to have a theme by making this album more approachable to a wider audience, not just for guitar or classical audiences.
“I wanted to have an album that most people could listen to and find something that they liked or recognized.”
“This album is 100 percent me,” Yang added. “You may look at this album and say it’s just a bunch of popular repertories, but I would say that it’s new ... because I have never heard a solo guitarist playing these songs.”
From Debussy to Falla and Piazzolla, the 19-track album is not only a methodical mixture of modern and classical European, Latin and Chinese pieces. It was also a musical transcription nightmare, having to take full-scale orchestra repertoires as well as beloved traditional folk pieces and translate the melodies to six lonely strings.
“For the fifth track on the album (‘Fisherman’s Song at Eventide’), I spent two months transcribing the piece. It’s such a classic and traditional Chinese piece. ... Everybody knows it,” she said. “And because it’s so famous it was in many ways very difficult to transcribe, especially because the original Chinese instrument used for this song has 13 strings and I only have six.”
“You must retain the original character and the spirit, but you also must add something with your instrument to add something fresh to the piece,” the guitarist added.
Following promotions, Yang is slated to return to Korea next year, tentatively performing as a soloist with Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.