Guitarist Xuefei Yang Kicks Off New Season at SFJAZZ Center
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By Sam Lee
Xuefei Yang, the first guitarist in China to enter a music school and launch an international professional career, is a rarity among the mostly male-dominated greats such as Andres Segovia, Paco de Lucía and Julian Bream.
The classical guitarist kicked off the 34th season of San Francisco Performances with her fifth appearance at the newly built SFJAZZ Center. This was also the first of 25 performances that UCSF students can experience with the SF Performances Culture Card this year.
The SFJAZZ Center is the first stand-alone venue in the country built specifically for jazz, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house, except for maybe the single row of seats in the corner behind the stage.
Even performing solo, Yang easily captivated the audience with her control and finesse of the classical guitar.
Yang performed works by Benjamin Britten, Franz Schubert, John Dowland, J.S Bach, William Walton and Roland Dyens. Yang admitted that Britten’s “Nocturnal after John Dowland,” Opus 70, is a difficult piece to play and an even more difficult piece of music for an audience to listen to, because of its dreamlike theme and often dissonant chording.
Dyens’ “Libra Sonatina” stood out the most, because it was written in response to his traumatic experience with heart bypass surgery. If Yang’s guitar was plugged into a 12-lead EKG, one can almost visualize the Afib pattern from the first movement, “India.”
The second movement, Largo, delves into the post-surgery stupor of an anesthetized Dyens and has a soothing and calm theme. Fuoco, the final movement of the work and the conclusion of the official repertoire, represented the air of excitement and positive outlook on life that comes after a successful surgery and recovery.
Yang did the obligatory triple bow and departure from the stage and didn’t quite get a standing ovation. She then realized that none of the evening’s repertoire had included any Spanish songs, so she graced the audience with one that finally earned her a standing ovation.
This was my first time using the SF Performances Culture Card and my first time at a classical guitar performance. The $25 cost of the card was literally half the price of this single performance alone, and can be purchased all season long.
There are still 24 other performances that Culture Card holders can experience at various other venues throughout the next year. If you want to impress a date with your passion (or just fake your passion) for performing arts but don’t want to break the bank, this is definitely a student-friendly and cost-effective way to do that!
For more information about the Culture Card or a full calendar of upcoming events visit www.sfperformances.org/culturecard.
Sam Lee is a first-year student in the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN).