The Latest

Esther Yoo performs world premiere of Raymond Yiu Violin Concerto

On Wednesday, March 20, Esther is set to give the first performance of Raymond Yiu’s Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Clemens Schuldt at the Barbican. Written specially for Yoo, the 35-minute work explores themes of identity, displacement and homesickness whilst reflecting on the eternal plight of all those forced into exile. A BBC co-commission with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Seattle Symphony, Yiu’s concerto for violin, his first, also offers what he describes as “a meditation on the turbulent history of China in the 20th Century, and the place of Chinese musicians in the realm of western classical music.”

The seeds of his Violin Concerto were planted nine years ago at the Royal Festival Hall when Yiu and Yoo met for the first time while taking part in a charity concert. The Hong Kong-born, London-based composer came to hear her perform several times thereafter and was inspired to write a concerto for her.

It’s very exciting to work with Ray on such a wonderful new composition.” comments Esther Yoo. “Getting to know and understand his Concerto has been a tremendously rewarding experience. The piece was inspired by the life of Ma Sicong, a great Chinese violinist and fine composer who studied in Paris during the 1920s. At the time of China’s Cultural Revolution, he managed to escape the authorities and found refuge in the United States where he remained for the rest of his life. Ray has used motives from Ma Sicong’s ‘Nostalgia’, the second movement of his ‘Inner Mongolia Suite’ for violin and piano, and carried the emotional spirit of the piece into the concerto.” 

The piece, he notes, is regarded by many Chinese as a meditation on the sorrows of exile. Yiu’s use of its music in his Violin Concerto projects what he calls “a hymn to celebrate the forgotten achievement of an immigrant in a strange land, as well as to provide a musical gateway for audiences to explore the development of Western Classical music in 20th-century China and beyond.” 

The new work combines diverse musical styles with the customary richness of Yiu’s orchestral writing.

There are nods to Chinese songs and instruments, such as the erhu, and echoes of Cantopop that Ray grew up listening to in Hong Kong.” observes Esther Yoo. “There are so many reflections in the piece of China at different points in its modern history and of the feelings of an exile far from home.” 

Click here for tickets