Saturday, March 04, 2006

Watch out, Jaybird

While there is a bit of a look-at-the-freak attitude about this Indy Star article, it does expose the fact that music composition is still a living art. I wish the article would compare young Yihan's music to other living composers. Is his music Downtown or Uptown; tonal, neotonal, or atonal; simple or complex? Listening to the provided audio file, I would characterize Yihan's compositional development to be at the "excellent mimicry" stage. The piano sonata is a great application of the Classical aesthetic, something that David Cope's EMI might have composed after digesting all of Mozart's sonatas. I do not denigrate Yihan Chen by saying this. Imitation is an important step in the development of a composer. If Yihan is still composing music of this style in a few years, then I would be concerned by the lack of originality. But at the age of 12, composing a credible Mozartean piece is a great compliment indeed.

Update: the mimicry is even better than I thought, as the audio file is a transcription of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, first movement. When I was originally writing this post I waffled between calling it Mozartean or Beethovenish, deciding that it was too classically oriented to be an imitation of Beethoven. And of course early Beethoven is much closer to Mozart than to late Beethoven. Sadly, I am not very familiar with Beethoven's piano concerti, other than the Emperor Concerto (no. 5). Thus I made the mistake from above. Thanks to Biton van Argos [not his real name] for pointing it out to me. And welcome to the Mozart Forum readers who have been justly mocking me for the mistake. As to Yihan Chen, I will have to wait to hear one of his original compositions.


Curtis Shields said...

I notice that you made no mention of Yihan Chen's keyboard skills in your posting. In fairness, the audio file of Yihan's performance of the Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto was recorded while he was still preparing for his performance with the New World Symphony Orchestra so it wasn't at the public performance level yet. Did you attend the actual performance? I was very impressed by his technical and musical skills as was the ISO conductor, Mario Venzago who was in attendance.

Scott Spiegelberg said...


No, I didn't attend the concert. I think it is great that young performers are also composing, with the improvement of musical sensibility as one result.

Thanks for the comment. I'll try to hear one of Yihan's future performances.