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Chen Yi’s Monologue (Impressions on “The True Story of Ah Q”)

Watch & Listen

Acclaimed Chinese American composer Chen Yi (b. 1953) has composed a solo piece that really exploits the full character of the clarinet. Though there is no discernible melody or rhythm, her Monologue (1993) uses the extremes of loud and soft, as well as the clarinet’s striking athleticism, to evoke an emotional monologue. And it’s no ordinary monologue, but haunting reflections on the biting satire of the novella by early 20th-century Chinese author Lu Xun that follows a crass but prideful character, Ah Q. The music itself is full of surprises, like two lengthy moments of total silence and an ending that skirts the very edge of audibility. A member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s clarinet section since 2014, Andrew Lowy demonstrates the kind of mastery required to make Chen Yi’s piece come to life.