CLEVELAND (November 21, 2011) – The Cleveland Museum of Art's VIVA! & Gala Performing Arts Series presents the world premiere of a musical commission titled Chinese Art Music: Yang Wei and Ensemble on Friday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the museum's Gartner Auditorium.
Yang Wei, a Chinese pipa (lute) master, returns to the VIVA! & Gala stage to complement the museum's exhibition Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965). In this program, Yang Wei, accompanied by an ensemble of Chinese virtuoso instrumentalists, will perform an array of old and new music inspired by the paintings of modern Chinese artist Fu Baoshi. The instrumentalists include Wu Wei, sheng (vertical mouth pipes); Hong Wang, erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle); Miao Yimin, Chinese woodwinds; and Mike Block, cello. The performing artists will be in residence at the museum from December 5–9 and will conduct workshops at Oberlin College, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Firestone High School—a performing arts school in Akron, Ohio.
"At the very core of this commission is the notion of tradition and individual talent, a shared theme that links the music with the exhibition in a broader cultural context," says Massoud Saidpour, CMA's director of performing arts, music, and film. "It explores how artists who inherit a long, sophisticated, cultural tradition negotiate the fine line between past and present during the creative process—embracing tradition on the one hand and pursuing originality on the other—and how they express the contemporary self by exploring the evocative potentialities of its rich artistic and musical traditions."
Yang Wei has traveled the world performing solo and ensemble music at some of the most prestigious performance halls alongside such luminaries as cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Both artists are part of the Silk Road Ensemble, a collective of internationally renowned performers and composers from more than 20 countries who collaborate on various musical projects. Yang has toured in the United States, performing at venues like the Ravinia International Music Festival, the Kimmel Center, the Lincoln Center, and the Chicago Symphony Center. Yang's performances have been celebrated worldwide, including in Asia and Europe.
Yang Wei began studying music when he was six years old, learning to play various classical Chinese instruments. At 13, he decided to concentrate on mastering the pipa and was taught by pipa master Liu Dehai. At 18, he performed as a pipa soloist with the national Shanghai Orchestra. In 1989, he was awarded the ART Trophy First Prize for the International Chinese Musical Instruments Competition, in the Young Professional Pipa Section. He moved to the United States in 1996 and in 2000 he was invited by cellist Yo-Yo Ma to join his Silk Road Ensemble. Yang has served as artist-in- residence at the Chicago Art Institute.
Tickets to Chinese Art Music: Yang Wei and Ensemble are $34, $29; CMA members $33, $28. Group and student rates are available. Pending availability, students may purchase "Pay What You Can" tickets at the door for any VIVA! & Gala performance. Tickets are available through the museum's online box office at www.ClevelandArt.org  or by phone at 216-421-7350 or 888-CMA-0033.
The VIVA! & Gala Performing Arts series has built a reputation among regional audiences for bringing one-of-a-kind artists to Cleveland. The 2011–12 season is made possible in part by the Ernest L. and Louise M. Gartner Fund, the P. J. McMyler Musical Endowment Fund, and the Anton and Rose Zverina Music Fund. Season Sponsors: Glidden, an AkzoNobel brand; and the Musart Society. Gallery concerts are made possible in part by an anonymous donor. Details can be found at www.ClevelandArt.org/VivaGala  or by calling the Cleveland Museum of Art box office at 888-CMA-0033 or online at www.ClevelandArt.org .
About the Pipa
The pipa is a four-stringed lute with a pear-shaped body offering a wide range (3.5 octaves). The pipa playing technique is characterized by spectacular finger works that creates rapid and virtuosic rolls, slaps, pizzicato, harmonics, and noises. A pipa virtuoso uses these effects to paint vivid images of heroic battles or exhilarating scenes such as galloping horses. The pipa repertoire, however, includes lyrical and sparsely beautiful melodies inspired by Chinese landscapes and poetry.
About Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965)
Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) considers the full scope of Fu Baoshi's artistic career from the 1920s to 1965 within its art historical, social, political, and cultural contexts. From traditional style landscape and figure paintings demonstrating Fu's artistic excellence and profundity, to political artwork manifesting state ideology under Chairman Mao Zedong, the wide variety of work exhibited demonstrates the artist's search for an artistic language capable of speaking for both self and the nation.
Tickets for Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and college students, and $4 for children ages 6 to 17. The exhibition is free for museum members.