Tuscon Lifestyle‘s latest issue features violist Hong-Mei Xiao on the cover along with a preview of her upcoming Delos album:
“Her latest CD project showcases three distinctive but somewhat related works by English composers, each piece having been created during that fertile period between the World Wars. Anchoring the program is William Walton’s Viola Concerto, which Hong-Mei notes is “One of the most important concertos in the viola repertoire. It’s a very poetic and beautiful piece.” It’s also a composition that if most concertgoers have heard it, it’s not in the original arrangement, but a revision that Walton crafted much later.
‘The concerto was composed in 1929,’ Hong-Mei explains. ‘Walton revised it in 1962. He made a lighter version with reduced winds and added a harp. Since the later version requires fewer players it’s more convenient for performances. That’s the one that most violists play. Because the original version has very rarely been recorded or heard in concerts, I wanted to present it to violists and listeners so they can compare for themselves and thus gain a broader understanding of this masterpiece.’
Also on the recording will be Arnold Bax’s Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra. Though Bax was a Londoner, he lived for a time in Ireland, and even delved into the Dublin literary scene that produced writers such as George William Russell and James Joyce. Not surprisingly, his seldom performed 1920 piece for viola and orchestra bears the imprint of the Emerald Isle.
The CD also will include a composer whose chamber and orchestral works include a number of audience favorites — Ralph Vaughan Williams. His Suite for Viola and Orchestra, which was composed between 1933 and 1934, is dedicated to violist Lionel Tertis, one of the virtuosi of his day, and for whom Walton’s concerto was originally written (though Paul Hindemith actually premiered it). Written with eight movements that are combined into three groups, it’s a very accessible and listener-friendly piece, yet it contains challenging components for a performer. It also follows the lead of giving a nod toward its land of origin. ‘It’s very virtuosic and delightful, with elements of English folk songs,’ Hong-Mei observes.
The CD is slated to be released by Delos sometime this fall (November!), setting the clock in motion for Hong-Mei to wrap up the project quickly. Editing the various components of the recording and preparing it for the label took up her summer. ‘Normally I go to festivals, tour in Europe, teach and perform, but I decided I’d better work on the CD!’ she relates with a laugh.
Tour plans definitely are not off her schedule, however. In the coming year she will be touring China, and traveling to Brazil for a music festival. She also will be performing a recital in Tucson, although at press time a date had not been set.”