YI LIN JIANG • MASQUES • SOLARIS RECORDS (SOL14101)
Producer: Randall Meyers
Executive producer: Ewa Kupiec
Recording producer: Peter Laenger (Tritonus GmbH)
Photography: Demetrius Fordham
Graphic design: Francesca Maria Conti
Text editor & translation: Manuel Sinn & Luo Shengying
Grand piano: Steinway & Sons
Recorded September 2014, Pollinger Bibliotheksaal, Germany
Release: December 6th 2014
“A mask has many meanings: does it hide reality, does it simulate it, does it guard the truth or does it unmask it?”
Composers often incorporate their dissatisfaction with politics, critique of the ills of society, and their own emotions into their works; sometimes directly and frankly, other times more subtly: in that way the music forms itself to their personal mask. An example of this is found in the Drei Klavierstücke by Franz Schubert, in which he conceals his own suffering, but is thereby capable of expressing it at the same time. These pieces were the last work on which I was able to work together with Prof. Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, before he died of a serious illness – therefore it has a special place in my repertoire.
Spring 2010, I worked with the piano music of Karol Szymanowski for the first time. I started to play some of his early works; especially his colorful musical language lulled me in its spell. Since my studies with Prof. Ewa Kupiec, I was also able to specifically deepen that niche even more when I discovered Szymanowski’s Masques, one of his most fascinating and expressive works for piano. Stemming from this inspiration, I created my own personal “Masques suite”:
First, there is the enigmatic, mysterious Masque of Alexander Scriabin, behind whose breathlessness there hides a gentle sensuality. The open end of this poem serves as a harmonically perfect transition to the Masques of Claude Debussy, which highlights the ambiguity as well as the tragedy of the Commedia dell’arte. From the Arabic sounds of the last scene, unfolds the seductive world of Shéhérazade, the first of three legends from Karol Szymanowski’s Masques, in which the respective protagonists try to hide their true intentions. It is followed by Tantris le Bouffon, based on the Celtic legend of Tristan, as well as the Sérénade de Don Juan about the Spanish heartthrob, as completion of my “Masques suite”.
The Masques of these three composers arose independently in their own respective musical language, in compilation, though, their hidden similarities become clear – be it simply their thematic connection, the neglect of all these works in concert circuits, the smooth transitions between the different masks and the use of literary genres matches them as well.
The sonata Après une lecture de Dante by Franz Liszt also makes reference to the literature. In this work, Dante’s Inferno of the Divina Commedia is being musical represented by a wide variety of character masks and reflects likewise the internal struggle with one’s own demons, which every person experiences for themselves but not always freely admits.
In Lü Wenchengs La lune d’automne au-dessus du lac tranquille, the composer reveals the beauty of this picturesque southern Chinese landscapes illustrating the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, which is located in striking distance of my hometown Shanghai. In the surrounding Jiangnan region I can gather new creative energy from the support of my family and close friends, find inner peace and most notably return to my own roots.
A mask as such can hide both weaknesses and strengths, disguise or even pretend them. For an artist, it can have a protective effect, but it can also reveal one’s strength. It can sometimes reflect a singular aspect of the many facets of an individual’s personality, which perhaps would not be perceived at first glance: the more “true” masks one owns and wears, the less this person has to attempt to adjust and adapt with the aid of “false” masks.
It is surely a long journey before one may claim, once in possession of great inner strength, the true masks – having merged as one’s true nature, unified with one’s own face.