The Orchestra’s third annual Lunar New Year concert again features conductor Junping Qian and returning soloists Zhengang Xie and Mei Hu, as well as the debut of vocalist, đàn bầu and đàn tranh performer Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ
Welcoming the Year of the Dragon and anticipating the arrival of spring, the Minnesota Orchestra will host its third annual Lunar New Year celebration on February 17. First conceived by the Orchestra’s Principal Bassoon Fei Xie, the concert presents music that honors unity, family traditions and community well-being. As in 2022 and 2023, Dr. Roz Tsai will host the concert, offering context for each of the program’s works. The evening includes seven works never before performed at Orchestra Hall, including the world premiere of Zhenqiang Xie’s Flying Dragon and Dancing Phoenix, which the Minnesota Orchestra commissioned. A noted Peking Opera composer who combines traditional Chinese styles with Western Classical technique, Xie’s work was written for orchestra and soloists Zhengang Xie and Mei Hu—renowned masters of the jing hu and yue qin, respectively.
The program will take place at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday, February 17, at 7 p.m., with ticket prices ranging from $38 to $78. Free tickets are available to young listeners ages 6 to 18 thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program. The performance will also be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities.
Presented in partnership with the Alliance of Chinese Culture and Arts and Carleton College’s Department of Music, a presentation of music and dance from China, Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan will take place around the Orchestra Hall lobby before the concert beginning at 6:15 p.m. and during intermission.
Chinese-born, Berlin-based conductor Junping Qian will again return to the podium for his third year leading the Orchestra’s Lunar New Year celebration. Qian and the Orchestra will open the concert with Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture, a work that depicts new year revelries in China’s Shanbei region. Intending to center traditions from the many nations in which Lunar New Year is widely observed, the Orchestra will then perform Korean-American composer Texu Kim’s Dub-Sanjo, which is based on Korean folk music traditions, followed by legendary Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao’s The Angel from Formosa. Kim’s music was first heard at Orchestra Hall nearly a decade ago, when he was a participant in the 2015 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.
Emmy Award-winning composer Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ will then take the stage with the Orchestra to perform her own Lullaby for a Country for Soprano and Orchestra. The Vietnamese-born, California-based artist is revered for her virtuosity around traditional Vietnamese instruments including the đàn bầu (monochord) and the 16-string đàn tranh (zither), both of which feature in Lullaby for a Country—a work that reflects on the traumas of war and pleas for peace and healing.
Alongside Zhenqiang Xie’s Flying Dragon and Dancing Phoenix, the program’s second half includes a number of shorter orchestral works that honor springtime, including Johann Strauss, Jr.’s pastoral Voices of Spring and Hua Wu’s Welcome Spring—which will also include Zhengang Xie and Mei Hu performing as soloists. Rounding out the concert will be two works of traditional Chinese folk music, including an arrangement of Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon and Dance of the Golden Snake, the latter of which was rearranged for symphony orchestra by Jianping Tang and used during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The Minnesota Orchestra’s own Principal Bassoon Fei Xie—who grew up in northern China—first approached the Orchestra with the idea of holding a Lunar New Year concert. He took on the role of artistic consultant for the Orchestra’s first two iterations in February 2022 and January 2023, and continues in that capacity this year.
About Junping Qian
Junping Qian, who is now in his third year of leading the Minnesota Orchestra’s Lunar New Year celebration, served as assistant conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra from 2018 to 2020 and was a visiting faculty member at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He won first prize at the 2017 Bucharest International Conducting Competition and was also a prize-winner in the 2019 International Competition of Young Conductors Lovro von Matačić in Zagreb, the 2021 Hans von Bülow International Conducting Competition and the 2022 Princess Astrid Competition in Trondheim. Since making his European debut at the Verbier Festival in 2012, Qian has conducted on four continents with orchestras such as the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Hungarian State Opera, Roma Sinfonietta, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Kammerorchester Basel. More: junpingqian.com.
About Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ is an award-winning performer of the đàn tranh (zither) and an Emmy Award-winning composer who has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet and Yo-Yo Ma. She also uses the monochord (đàn bầu), bamboo xylophone (đàn t'rưng), traditional drums (trống) and other instruments to create music that blends Vietnamese instruments and traditions with other genres and structures. Võ co-composed and arranged music for the Oscar-nominated documentary Daughter from Danang as well as the Emmy-winning soundtrack for Bolinao 52, among other film projects. She graduated with distinction from the Vietnamese Academy of Music, where she later taught, and has since performed in more than 14 countries, including appearances at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. During President Barack Obama’s administration, Võ became the first Vietnamese artist to perform at the White House and received the Artist Laureate Award for her community contributions through the arts. More: vananhvo.com.
About Zhengang Xie and Mei Hu
Jing hu master Mr. Zhengang Xie and yue qin master Ms. Mei Hu, a husband-and-wife team, are listed as members of the elite group among the musicians in the Directory of Current Chinese Artists of 1998, which Hu participated in editing. While in China, as the top “Cheng” style Peking Opera fiddlers, Xie and Hu performed and recorded as solo jing hu and yue qin players with many top Beijing Opera houses, including the Beijing Opera House and National Opera House. In addition to performing traditional Peking Opera repertoire, Xie has participated in many new opera productions, such as the Peking Opera TV show Cao Xueqin and the new opera The Legend of The White Snake.
Since moving to the U.S. in 1999, Xie and Hu have brought Chinese music, particularly Peking Opera, to their community. While living in Cincinnati from 2000 to 2020, the couple performed in concert halls, schools and universities around the region. In collaborations with the University of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, they performed concertos such as In the Dark Night, The Qiao Family Compound and The God of Mountain. Xie and Hu are active in creating performance videos online, as well as performing around the Twin Cities area. They were featured soloists with the Minnesota Orchestra at the inaugural Lunar New Year concert in 2022, and this past summer they toured Spain with Carleton College Chinese ensemble on an invitation from pipa master Gao Hong. Xie and Hu currently reside in Plymouth, Minnesota, near their son, Minnesota Orchestra Principal Bassoon Fei Xie, and his family.
About Roz Tsai
Dr. Benhong Rosaline Tsai is a global talent management executive who has held transformative leadership roles in multiple Fortune 500 organizations. She currently serves as Vice President of Talent, Learning, and Org Effectiveness at Thrivent, a financial services firm based in Minneapolis. She is a long-time community volunteer for youth development, arts and culture organizations, most recently completing her term as board chair for Minnesota non-profit BestPrep. A native of Tianjin, China, Tsai completed her undergraduate studies at Nankai University and obtained her master of science degree at St. Cloud State University. She holds a doctorate degree from University of Minnesota, where she currently serves as adjunct faculty for the Carlson School of Management. More: carlsonschool.umn.edu.
About Fei Xie
Fei Xie joined the Minnesota Orchestra as principal bassoon in 2017 after serving as principal bassoon of the Baltimore Symphony, an ensemble he first joined as second bassoonist in 2008. When he won the principal role in 2012, Xie became the first Chinese-born bassoonist to hold such a position in a major American symphony orchestra. Xie has appeared as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra—performing Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in January 2021—Baltimore Symphony, Festival Mozaic Orchestra and the Sichuan Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in China. More: minnesotaorchestra.org.
Minnesota Orchestra Holiday Concerts
LUNAR NEW YEAR
with the Minnesota Orchestra
Saturday, February 17, 2024, 7 p.m. / Orchestra Hall*
Junping Qian, conductor
Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, vocalist, đàn bầu and đàn tranh
Zhengang Xie, jing hu master
Mei Hu, yue qin master
Rosaline Tsai, host
Fei Xie, artistic consultant
|Spring Festival Overture
|The Angel from Formosa
|Lullaby for a Country for Soprano and Orchestra
|Voices of Spring
Flying Dragon and Dancing Phoenix for Jing Hu, Yue Qin and Orchestra
|Welcome Spring 迎春 for Jing Hu and Orchestra
|Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon
|Dance of the Golden Snake
Tickets: $38 to $78 [Free tickets are available for young listeners ages 6 to 18, thanks to the Hall Pass program.]
* The performance will be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities.
TICKET PURCHASING INFORMATION
Tickets and subscription packages can be purchased at minnesotaorchestra.org or by calling 612-371-5656. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.
The Hall Pass program makes free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18 for select Classical and Symphony in 60 concerts, and all kids under 18 for Family concerts. This program is sponsored by Cynthia and Jay Ihlenfeld. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.