"A Chinese in New York" was a gift to the Pre-College Division’s centennial celebration and was dedicated to Gong’s longtime mentor and spiritual parent, Yoheved Kaplinsky.
Born in 1992 in China, composer and pianist Peng-Peng Gong studied for 12 years at Juilliard and is now composer in residence for the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, having already completed 10 symphonies and two piano concertos among many other works.
"'A Chinese in New York' is really a super-compressed version of my earlier Symphony No. 6, which was a 40-minute tone poem based on my twelve-year experience living in New York," Peng-Peng Gong told The Violin Channel.
"It is a raw description of the Chinese foreign-student experience. The protagonist confronts inner turmoils caused by vast cultural differences by sticking to love, family, and friendship.
"The piece was first conceived to celebrate the Centennial of Juilliard's Pre-College Division, where I studied for seven years as a pianist before entering its college as a composer. It was premiered by the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra conducted by Xian Zhang in May 2019. When I learned that Jindong was putting together a program of recent Chinese works addressing ongoing issues of our time, I recommended it to him for its fitting and realistic narrative that might speak to a wide audience.
"My personal process for taking it from my mind all the way through to the premiere was filled with pain — mainly because I could not be there in person due to the pandemic and visa issues. Although it might not be my personally top-ranked work from pure artistic standards, it is by far my dearest and most intimate Opus. But as I streamed the entire concert in Shanghai, I was overwhelmed and deeply moved by the effect and quality that everybody pulled off in such a short time. The climaxes were powerful and the solos brought tears to my eyes.
"I wish that a listener of any race or nationality may be reminded of the things that held us together for this long."
The following video presents a performance of "A Chinese in New York" that took place on Saturday, October 16 at Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College as part of the China Now Music Festival. It was performed by The Orchestra Now, conducted by Jindong Cai.