Philadelphia Orchestra To Decide Centennial Competition Winner: Huang Ruo


Huang Ruo
Huang Ruo
photo by Nuiko Wadden

Huang Ruo, 23, is working with Chistopher Rouse on his Master’s Degree at The Juilliard School, having recently completed his undergraduate work at Oberlin. The Chinese-born American composer wrote his first symphonic work at the age of 15, which was performed by the Shanghai Youth Orchestra. In 1995, he was awarded the Henry Mancini Award at the International Film and Music Festival. Huang’s music has been performed by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the University of Michigan Contemporary Directions Ensemble. A CD of his work, If To Live, To…, has been released by Shortleash Productions, Inc., and in 2000 his work, “BEING ….,” will be released on the AUR label.

Lovers of practicality in art will appreciate Ruo’s approach to his Three Pieces. “The general idea is [for the pieces to function as] “three very different kinds of openings” for an orchestral program. The pieces can stand alone, together, in any combination or order.” The first piece, “Prelude,” premiered at Oberlin in 1999, is “slow and simple,” according to Ruo. “Fanfare,” also premiered at Oberlin, is “fast and loud.” “Announcement, ” which has the distinction of being the only premiere on the Philadelphia Orchestra program, is a “ceremonious statement” laden with “passionate emotion.”

Ruo describes his music as “very close to the natural world.” “Music is like a journey, starting from nowhere, and going nowhere,” Ruo explained. This is the philosophical motivation behind his free rhythms, times signatures functioning merely as a rehearsal convention. Ruo likes the idea of obtaining contrast through mixing styles in a composition, a technique he finds in the works of Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler.

Ruo calls the competition “a great chance for young composers to present themselves to the public.” Like Beavers and Fitch, Ruo is thrilled to be working with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and happy to get the audience involved in the decision-making process. Ruo sees this democratic approach as a natural extension of his work, in fact. “We write music not just for ourselves,” Ruo commented, “and people liking my music is the best reward.”

Ruo is about to start a piece for the Juilliard Composer and Choreographer Project. He will be paired up with a young choreographer from Juilliard’s Dance Division, and they will create a work to be performed by fellow students at Alice Tully Hall next January. Ruo “really enjoy[s] the idea of different artists working together,” because, this way, “it’s not like you are [always] driving your own car!”

Simon Woods hopes these pieces will be programmed again in future Orchestra seasons, and that they will have the opportunity to commission one or more of the young composers for a new piece. He is also open to the possibility of a recording of the three finalists’ works.

The audience will have an additional opportunity to involve themselves with this new music: Woods will mediate a brief pre-concert talk with the composers, from 6:45 to 7:15. When asked about the possibility of repeating this competition in the future, Woods sounded optimistic. He hopes that a future event would incorporate Internet voting, and added that the new internet agreement with the AFM could allow the Orchestra to post the pieces ahead of time for users to download.

Following the intermission voting, the Orchestra will play the Brahms Violin Concerto with soloist Hilary Hahn.