From what I’ve read, Qigang Chen (b. 1951) is one of the most performed of contemporary composers…and to my knowledge, I had never heard his music before YouTube served up his single-movement piano concerto, Er Huang, via its sometimes incomprehensible algorithm. Chen was born in Shanghai but eventually emigrated to France, which he calls home to this day. Er Huang is a work of serene contemplation that slowly becomes more and more openly dramatic, until it reaches a passage of almost breathtaking power before it subsides again to a peaceful, thoughtful conclusion. In the work, Chen deploys melodies from Peking (or Beijing) operas he saw as a child; the work is apparently a reaction on Chen’s part to the slow fade of Peking opera from the Chinese musical landscape.
I’ve never watched a Peking opera, which seems to me a pity; they sound like fascinating productions, combining music and mimes and stagecraft and acrobatics for something that sounds distinctly different from traditional Western opera. In addition to being a wonderfully listenable modern work, Er Huang also apparently serves as Chen’s nostalgic look back at a time that, for all its seeming strength in lasting for centuries (Peking opera began more than three hundred years ago) is now possibly fading under Western influence.
Of course, even Chen is not immune to these effects. He has, after all, written his work purely for the Western orchestra and the Western piano.
Here is Er Huang by Qigang Chen.
(Credit; Info on Er Huang)