YANG Xuefei is acclaimed as one of the world’s finest classical guitarists. She was hailed as a musical pioneer. Xuefei was the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school, and became the first internationally recognised Chinese guitarist on the world stage. Her first public appearance was at the age of ten and received such acclaim that the Spanish Ambassador in China presented her with a concert guitar. Her debut in Madrid at the age of 14 was attended by the composer Joaquín Rodrigo and, when John Williams heard her play, he gave two of his own instruments to Beijing’s Central Conservatoire especially for her and other advanced students.
Xuefei was born in Beijing, and is a graduate of Beijing’s Central Conservatoire of Music, and went on to become the first Chinese musician to receive a full scholarship for postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she received the Principal’s Prize on completion of her postgraduate study.
Her international success has led her to be invited to play in more than 50 countries at numerous prestigious venues such as Wigmore Hall, all Southbank venues, and Royal Albert Hall in London, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Konzerthaus Vienna, Auditorio Nacional de Espana, Barcelona Auditorium, Carnegie Hall & Lincoln Centre New York. In Asia she has appeared at the Concert Hall Taipei, Hong Kong City Hall & Cultural Centre, Esplanade Singapore, Seoul Arts Centre and gave the first guitar recital and concerto in the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Xuefei has also been invited to perform at major music festivals such as BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Shanghai MISA Festival and the Beijing international Music Festival. In 2003 she performed 54 concerts for the “Night of the Proms” Tour, appearing in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, to a total audience of over 800,000 people.
Xuefei is frequently invited to play with the world’s leading orchestras including Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Scotland National Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, China Philharmonic. Xuefei’s recent highlights include return performances with English Chamber Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Wintertour Philharmonic, debut performances with Beijing Symphony Orchestra, China National Symphony Orchestra giving the Asian premier of the The Albeniz Concerto written for Xuefei by Stephen Goss, and an Australian tour with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra which marked the Australian premier of Tan Dun’s guitar concerto, performance in BBC Proms with Ulster Orchestra, and performance with Orchestre National de France on Bastille Day.
Gramophone magazine praised Xuefei as one of the leading innovators of her generation for continuing to build the guitar repertoire. Xuefei is committed to commissioning new works and making her own arrangements, with a particular interest in adding Chinese music and chamber music, many of which have appeared on her recordings.
Xuefei has made many albums including several acclaimed recordings for EMI Classics and Decca. Her first recording received a gold disc & her second was selected as “Editor’s Choice” in Gramophone magazine. Several of the recordings reflect Xuefei’s interest in expanding the repertoire. A concerto album recorded with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eiji Oue, featuring Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez & Goss’ Albeniz Concerto. Another recording of “Bach Concertos” featured Xuefei’s innovative transcriptions of solo works and concertos by J.S. Bach. Xuefei has released two albums in 2016, her solo album Colours of Brazil and Heartstrings which continue her successful performance on diverse musical styles. In 2018, DG released the duet album Milonga Del Angel by Xuefei and HUANG Mengla. The album Sketches of China released by Decca in August 2020 presents the Chinese music in various forms. It aims to promote Chinese culture and develops repertoire for guitar. The album Sketches of China has been highly praised worldwidely. In May 2022, Xuefei’s recording Magna Carta including the complete works for guitar by composer John Brunning has been released - the album features her recording alongside the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with a special guest appearance from star cellist Johannes Moser and hit highly on both the USA Billboard charts and UK official charts. Released by Decca in November 2022, her latest solo album Guitar Favourites featured a collection of much-loved guitar works known to classical guitar lovers around the world.
In 2022/23 Season, Xuefei tours in China, Europe, America and Australia, giving recitals and chamber concerts in Macao, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Bath, Cardiff, Adelaide, Antwerp, Milan, Baltimore, San Francisco among others and performs with Armenia State Symphony Orchestra, and London Philharmonic Orchestra in London.
Xuefei is one of the few guitarists whose artistry connect with audiences far beyond the guitar fraternity. She collaborates with an eclectic range of artists: classical musicians such as WANG Jian, Ian Bostridge, Rosalind Plowright, Sir James Galway, Elias String Quartet & the Heath Quartet; cross-over artist David Garrett, pop musicians LI Jian, Leo Ku and Eason Chan. Xuefei has also appeared on numerous radio and television programmes including BBC Radio 4’s Woman's Hour, the BBC Proms, a BBC documentary The Story of Guitar, and China Central Television, who made a biographical documentary of Xuefei. From 2015 she is honoured to be the artistic director of Changsha International Guitar Festival
The UK classical music magazine, Classic FM, named Xuefei as one of the 100 top classical musicians of our time. And she made the list of top 6 classical guitarists in BBC Music Magazine. In recognition of her distinguished career, Xuefei was awarded “Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music” in June 2012. Xuefei continues to be ambassador and role model for guitar in China.
CHEN Leiji graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music with a bachelor degree in Guqin under the tutelage of GONG Yi, famous Guqin artist and educator in China; from Central Conservatory of Music with a master degree in conducting under renowned Chinese conductor YU Feng; and from China Conservatory of Music, with a doctoral degree in composition, under the guidance of celebrated composer ZHAO Jiping.
Born in Shanghai in 1967, CHEN started to learn Guqin at the age of Nine, and at the age of 12, he was admitted to the Guqin program of the Affiliated Middle School of Shanghai Conservatory of Music and studied with GONG Yi, who praised him as “a rare artist in the field of Guqin performance”.
After graduating from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1989, he lived in France and studied in the conducting programme at ENS Paris, Conservatoire à rayonnement régional de Reims and Conservatoire à rayonnement régional de Ruerl-Malmaison.
After returning to China, he was admitted to Central Conservatory of Music, where he studied under YU Feng and obtained his master degree in conducting in 2003.
At the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as the Chinese rice paper scroll symbolizing civilization unfolded, CHEN Leiji enchanted the world audience with his Guqin solo performance of “The Voice Left Behind by the Ancients”, letting the whole world appreciating together, for the very first time, the tranquil sound from the Guqin - the most ancient Chinese instrument.
In 2010, he received a doctoral degree in composition from China Conservatory of Music, where he had studied with ZHAO Jiping.
Chen is currently teaching at China Central Conservatory of Music.