Xiling Wang, Composer in Residence

Xilin Wang is one of the most significant composers in China, distinct for his expressive dramatic and subversive musical language. Wang was born in Kaifeng in Henan Province of China. His father’s untimely death and family poverty led him to join an art troupe in the Chinese PLA in September, 1949 and in 1955, at the age of 19, he was sent to the Central Military Music Conducting School in Beijing.


In 1957, he was admitted to the department of composing and conducting of Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he studied with Liu Zhuang, Chen Mingzhi, Ding Shande and Qu Wei. Wang composed the first movement of his Symphony No. 1 (OP.2) as his graduation work in 1962 (The advisor was Qu Wei, graduated from the Moscow Conservatory of Music).This was followed by an appointment as Composer in Residence with the Beijing Central Radio Symphony Orchestra. Wang’s 1963 symphonic suite Yunnan Tone Poem (Op.3) was later awarded the highest prize given by Chinese government. Wang’s “Torch Festival”, the last movement of Yunnan Tone Poem is a representative Chinese work, and it has been performed in about 40 cities of 20 countries since 1981, and it became the most representative Chinese symphony work.


In 1963, shortly before the onset of the Cultural Revolution, a lecture Wang was assigned to give criticising the government’s art policies led to his persecution and he was banished to Shanxi Province for 14 years. Until 1971 he worked as a labourer in a Datong facing persecution, torture and imprisonment; in the subsequent years of exile he was appointed conductor of the Southeast Shanxi Song and Dance Ensemble.

Wang returned to Beijing in 1978 following the end of the Cultural Revolution and was for the first time introduced to the music of the major Western compositional figures of the 20thcentury, previously banned: Schoenberg, Bartók, Stravinsky, Penderecki, among others. This had a strong influence on Wang’s compositional technique as he began to employ sequencing, minimalism and tone clusters, as well as incorporate elements of local folkmusic into his symphonic works and wrote a large number works with tragic features and strong contradictions and conflicts. The renowned musicologist Kholopova considers,Wang is the Unique inheritor and developer of the Shostakovich route in the world; the famous composer Sofia Gubaidulina commented on his works:“I could feel the fire-like blazing roaring powerfrom this music”; internationally renowned composer Krzysztof Penderecki highly praised Wang’s fourth symphony:“ This is a great symphony work based on music of the European avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s. Because Chinese composer were isolated for many decades, I think that such a serious award as the Graweywe Music Award should honor a composer who has preserved his own individual language against the general trend in music in his country.”


Wang’s extensive oeuvre comprises over 60 compositions with opus numbers, including nine symphonies, piano concerto, violin concerto, numerous symphonic suites, overtures and chamber works. In addition, he has also composed more than 40 pieces of TV and movie music, which are without opus numbers. His works have been performed many times throughout China and Europe. In 2014, Schott Music contracted with him to publish his works. So far, Schott has published six works of his, including Symphony No.3, SymphonyNo.4, Symphony No.5, Symphony No.8 and Piano Concerto.



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