Chen Yi

(b. 4 April 1953, Guangzhou).

American composer, born in China, of mostly orchestral, chamber, choral, and piano works that have been performed throughout the world.

Ms. Chen began studies in piano with Li Su-xin and violin with Zheng Ri-hua at age three. She later studied composition with Wu Zu-qiang at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing from 1978–86, where she earned her MA. She then studied composition with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky at Columbia University from 1986–93 and there earned her DMA with distinction. She has received honorary doctorates from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin in 2002, the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio in 2008, the University of Portland in Oregon in 2009, and The New School in New York, New York in 2010.

Among her many honours in China are First Prize in a national competition (1985, for Duo Ye No. 1), First Prize in a competition for music for piano for children in Beijing (1985, for Yu Diao) and First Prize in the competition for traditional music of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing (1986, for Xie Zi). Among her honours in the USA are the Lili Boulanger Award from the Women's Philharmonic in San Francisco (1994), the NEA Composer Fellowship (1994), the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996), the Guggenheim Fellowship (1996), and the Sorel Medal for Excellence in Music from the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the City University of New York (1996). She has also received the Alpert Award in the Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Santa Clarita (1997), the Eddie Medora King Award for Musical Composition from the University of Texas (1999), the Adventurous Programming Award from ASCAP (1999, for her work with the organisation Music from China, shared with her husband Zhou Long), the Charles Ives Living Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001–02), the ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), the Elise Stoeger Award from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2002), the Friendship Ambassador Award from the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund (2002), and the Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship from the University of Missouri–Kansas City (2006). She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2005. Her chamber music was featured in Sound and Silence, a series of ten films on contemporary music co-produced by ISCM (1989), and she is the subject of the documentary film Chen Yi in America (A Cantonese in New York) (2002).

She is also active in other positions. She served as a composer to and concertmaster of the Beijing Opera Troupe from 1970–78. She founded the bilingual newsletter of Music from China in 1991 and has served as its co-editor since 1991. She served as composer-in-residence to the Women's Philharmonic, the male chorus Chanticleer and the Aptos Creative Arts Program in San Francisco, all from 1993–96. She has served on the advisory council of the American Composers Orchestra since 1993, of the International Alliance for Women in Music since 1995 and of The Walden School in Dublin, New Hampshire since 2000. She has served on the board of directors of Chamber Music America since 2002.

She taught composition, multicultural analysis and the orchestral works of Claude Debussy at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1996–98 and has taught as the Lorena Searcey Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Music Composition at the University of Missouri–Kansas City since 1998. She taught as the Karel Husa Visiting Professor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York in 2002–03 and as the Changjiang Scholar Visiting Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 2006. She has given guest lectures throughout China and the USA.

She has lived in the USA since 1986.

Her primary publisher is the Theodore Presser Co.





Xian Shi (concerto), viola, orchestra, 1983

Duo Ye No. 1, small orchestra (flute, oboe, E-flat clarinet, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, timpani, strings), 1985 (version of work for piano)

Sprout, string orchestra, 1986 (also version for string quartet)

Two Sets of Wind and Percussion Instruments, small orchestra (piccolo, bass clarinet, 15 brass, timpani, 6 percussion), 1986

Symphony No. 1, large orchestra, 1986

Duo Ye No. 2, 1987

Overture No. 1, orchestra of instruments from China, 1989

Overture No. 2, orchestra of instruments from China, 1990

Concerto, piano, large orchestra, 1992

Pipa Rhyme, pipa (lute from China), small orchestra (14 players), 1993

Symphony No. 2, large orchestra, 1993

The Linear, large orchestra, 1994

Ge XuAntiphony, 1994

Shuo, string orchestra, 1994 (also version for string quartet)

Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in, 2 violins, string orchestra, 1995 (also versions for erhu [violin from China], piano; cello, piano; violin, piano; also incorporated into Romance and Dance)

The Golden Flute (concerto), flute, orchestra, 1997

Fiddle Suite, huqin (family of spike fiddles from China), string orchestra, 1997 (also versions for huqin, string quartet; huqin, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass; huqin, orchestra, 2000; huqin, orchestra of instruments from China, 2008)

Romance and Dance, 2 violins, string orchestra, 1998 (incorporates Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in; also version for violin, piano)

Concerto, percussion, large orchestra, 1998

Momentum, large orchestra, 1998

Eleanor's Gift (concerto), cello, orchestra, 1998, revised 1999

Spring Festival, symphonic band, 1999

Chinese Folk Dance Suite, violin, orchestra, 2000 (also version of second movement as Yangko, violin, 2 percussion)

Ba Yin, 4 saxophones, string orchestra, 2001

Tu, large orchestra, 2002 (also version for symphonic band, 2003)

Caramoor's Summer, 2003

Ballad, Dance and Fantasy, cello, large orchestra, 2003

Symphony No. 3, large orchestra, 2003–04

Celebration, 2005

Si JiThe Four Seasons, large orchestra, 2005

Spring in Dresden, violin, orchestra/large orchestra (8 winds, 10 brass, harp, 3 percussion, strings), 2005

The Ancient Beauty, dizi (transverse flute from China) (+ xun [clay flute from China]), pipa, zheng [zither from China], erhu, string orchestra, 2006

Suite from China West, symphonic band, 2007

The Ancient Chinese Beauty, recorders (1 player), string orchestra, 2008

Concerto for Reeds, sheng (mouth organ from China), oboe, small orchestra/orchestra (5 winds, French horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, strings), 2008

Overture, youth orchestra, 2008

Prospect Overture, large orchestra, 2008

Rhyme of Fire (original title Olympic Fire), large orchestra, 2008

Prelude and Fugue, orchestra (8 winds, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, piano, percussion, strings), 2009

UMKC Fanfare, symphonic band, 2009

Symphony No. 4, 'Humen 1839', large orchestra, 2009

Dragon Rhyme, symphonic band, 2010

Mount a Long Wind, large orchestra, 2010

Wind, symphonic band, 2010

Jing Diao, large orchestra, 2011

Fountains of KC, large orchestra, 2011


Fisherman Song, violin, piano, 1980

Xie Zi, sheng, 2 dizi, liuqin (mandolin from China), sanxian (lute from China), zheng, 1985

Woodwind Quintet No. 1, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1987

Near Distance, flute (+ alto flute), clarinet (+ bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano, percussion, 1988

The Tide, xun, pipa, yangqin (hammered dulcimer from China), zheng, gaohu (spike fiddle from China), erhu, percussion, 1988

Dian, pipa, 1991

Suite, dizi, pipa, sanxian, yangqin, erhu, 1991

Sparkle, flute (+ piccolo), clarinet (+ E-flat clarinet), violin, cello, double bass, piano, 2 percussion, 1992

Monologue (Impressions on 'The True Story of Ah Q'), clarinet, 1993

Song in Winter, dizi, zheng, harpsichord, 1993 (also version for flute, zheng, piano, percussion, 1993)

Shuo, string quartet, 1994 (version of work for string quartet)

Duo Ye No. 1, pipa, 1995 (version of work for piano)

Qi, flute, cello, piano, percussion, 1996–97

Fiddle Suite, huqin, string quartet, 1997 (version of orchestral work; also version for huqin, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1997)

Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in, erhu, piano, 1997 (version of work for 2 violins, string orchestra; also versions for cello, piano, 1998; violin, piano, 1999)

Sound of the Five, cello, string quartet, 1998 (also version for marimba, string quartet, 2004)

Feng (Woodwind Quintet No. 2), flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1998

Dunhuang Fantasy (concerto), organ, ensemble (flute, oboe, E-flat clarinet, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion), 1999

Romance and Dance, violin, piano, 1999 (version of work for 2 violins, string orchestra)

Song of the Great Wall, 8 French horns, 1999

Ning, pipa, violin, cello, 2001

Joy of Reunion, oboe, viola, cello, double bass, 2001 like a raging fire..., flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, 2001–02

Wu Yu, flute, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), bassoon, violin, cello, percussion, 2001–02 (also version for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, double bass, 2001–02)

At the Kansas City Chinese New Year Concert, string quartet, 2002 (one section may be performed separately: Blue Dragon Sword Dance)

Chinese Fables, pipa, erhu, cello, percussion, 2002

Burning, string quartet, 2002

Chinese Ancient Dances, clarinet, piano, 2004

Night Thoughts, flute, cello, piano, 2004

Happy Rain on a Spring Night, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, 2004

Suite for Cello and Chamber Winds, cello, ensemble (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion), 2004

Ancient Dances (after Li Bai), pipa, percussion, 2005

Yangko, violin, 2 percussion, 2005 (version of second movement of Chinese Folk Dance Suite)

The Han Figurines, clarinet, tenor saxophone, violin, double bass, piano, percussion, 2006

Three Bagatelles from China West, flute, piano, 2006 (also versions for 2 flutes, 2006; sheng, guan [oboe from China], 2006)

Tibetan Tunes, violin, cello, piano, 2007

Tunes from My Home, violin, cello, piano, 2007

Septet, 4 saxophones, pipa, erhu, percussion, 2008

Woodwind Quintet No. 3, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 2008

From the Old Peking Folklore, violin, piano, 2009

Jing Marimba, marimba, 2009

Memory, violin, 2010

China West Suite, piano, percussion (version of work for 2 pianos)

Sprout, string quartet (version of work for string orchestra)


Three Poems from the Song Dynasty (texts by Li Qingzhao, Xin Qiji, Su Shi), mixed chorus, 1985

Tang Poems (cantata, texts by Li Bai, Li Shangyin, Bai Juyi, Chen Zi'ang), male chorus, 1995 (also version for mixed chorus, small orchestra, 1995)

Written on a Rainy Night, male chorus, c. 1995 (also version for mixed chorus, c. 1995)

Chinese Myths Cantata (vocalise), 12 male voices, pipa, yangqin, zheng, erhu, 4 pianos, orchestra, 1996

Spring Dreams (text by Meng Haoran), mixed chorus, 1997

Chinese Poems (texts by Wang Zhihuan, Li Bai, 2 folk poems), 6 children's voices, 1999

KC Capriccio (vocalise), mixed chorus, symphonic band, 2000 (also version of one section as Capriccio, mixed chorus, organ, percussion, 2001)

Xuan (text by Laozi), mixed chorus, 2001

Know You How Many Petals Falling (text by Meng Haoran [English translation]), mixed chorus, 2001

To the New Millennium (texts by Du Fu, Wang Wei, Cao Cao), soprano, mezzo-soprano, mixed chorus, 2001

Landscape (text by Su Shi), mixed chorus, 2003

The West Lake (text by Su Shi), mixed chorus, 2003

A Horseherd's Mountain Song, mixed chorus, 2003

A Single Bamboo Can Easily Bend, mixed chorus, 2003

Looking at the Sea, female chorus, 2006

From the Path of Beauty, mixed chorus, string quartet, 2008 (one section may be performed separately: The Bronze Taotie, mixed chorus)

Angel Island Passages, children's chorus, string quartet, 2010

Spring Rain, mixed chorus, 2010

With Flowers Blooming, female chorus, 2010

Distance can't keep us two apart, mixed chorus, 2011

Early Spring, mixed chorus, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, 2011


As in a Dream (text by Li Qingzhao), soprano, pipa, zheng, 1988 (also version for soprano, violin, cello, 1988)

Meditation (texts by Meng Haoran, Chen Zi'ang), mezzo-soprano, piano, 1999

Bright Moonlight (text by the composer), mezzo-soprano, piano, 2001


Variations on 'Awariguli', 1978

Duo Ye No. 1, 1984 (also versions for small orchestra; pipa)

Yu Diao, 1985

Guessing, 1989

Small Beijing Gong, 1993

Ba Ban, 1999

Ji-Dong-Nuo, 2005

China West Suite, 2 pianos (also version for piano, percussion)

Singing in the Mountain


A Set of Chinese Folksongs (folksongs from China), male chorus, 1994 (also versions for children's chorus, string orchestra, 1994; children's chorus, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1994; mixed chorus, piano, 1994; mixed chorus, 1994)

Sakura, Sakura (folksong from Japan), male chorus, 1994

Arirang (folksong from the Koreas), male chorus, 1994

Singin' in the Dark (Songs of the American Frontier) (folksongs from the USA), mixed chorus, orchestra, 1995 (collaboration with Alice Parker)

Lament of the Twin Stars (folksongs from Guangdong), male chorus, 1996

Chinese Mountain Songs (folksongs from China), female chorus, 2001

Shady Grove (folksong from the USA), mixed chorus, 2001

Two Chinese Folksongs (folksongs from China), mixed chorus, 2003

Two Chinese Folksongs (folksongs from China), mixed chorus, 2008 (collaboration with Steven Stucky)


Duo Ye No. 1 (version for small orchestra); Xian Shi; Symphony No. 1; Sprout (original version); Two Sets of Wind and Percussion Instruments. Liu Li-zhou, viola; Shao En, Shui Lan/Central Philharmonic Orchestra (China Record Corporation: AL-57, 1986)

The Palm Tree from Three Poems from the Song Dynasty. Yan Liangkun/Central Philharmonic Society Chorale (Pacific Audio-Video Corporation: P-2318, 1989)

Duo Ye No. 1 (original version). Shi Shucheng, piano (China Record Corporation: CCD-90 088, 1990)

Dian. Wu Man, pipa (Nimbus Records: NI 5368, 1993)

As in a Dream (version for soprano, violin, cello). Chen Hongyu, soprano; Vera Hsu, violin; Ted Mook, cello (China Record Corporation: CCD-94/388, 1994)

Dian. Min Xiaofen, pipa (Cala Records: CACD 0504, 1995)

Qin Tomb of the Middle Kingdom (music for computer game). (Warner Brothers, 1996) (CD-ROM)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (original version); Arirang; Sakura, Sakura. Chanticleer (Teldec: 16676-2, 1997)

Chinese Myths Cantata; Duo Ye No. 2; Ge Xu; Symphony No. 2. Chanticleer; Music from China; JoAnn Falletta/Women's Philharmonic (New Albion Records: NA 090, 1997)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (version for mixed chorus; excerpts). Lim Yau/Shanghai Philharmonic Choir (International Music Management, 1997)

Duo Ye No. 1 (version for pipa). Min Xiaofen, pipa (Avant: AVAN 021, 1998)

Sparkle; As in a Dream (original version); Qi; Duo Ye No. 1 (version for pipa); Shuo (version for string quartet); Song in Winter (original version); Near Distance. Yang Yi, dizi; Min Xiaofen, pipa; Wei Lai-gen, zheng; Joyce Lindorff, harpsichord; Manhattan String Quartet; Music from China; New Music Consort; New York New Music Ensmble (Composers Recordings, Inc.: CRI 804, 1999)

Tang Poems (original version; excerpts); Written on a Rainy Night (original version). Chanticleer (Teldec: 3984-24570-2, 1999)

Ge Xu. David Snell/Foundation Philharmonic (Atma Classique: ACD 2199, 1999)

Dian. Wu Man, pipa (Nimbus Records: NI 7043/44, 2000)

Ba Ban. Ursula Oppens, piano (Boosey & Hawkes: ISMN M-051-246174-5, 2000)

Duo Ye No. 2. Yeh Tsung/Hong Kong Sinfonietta (Hugo Productions: HRP 7204, 2000)

Momentum. David Chen/National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Recordings: 026189890046, 2000)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (version for mixed chorus; excerpts); The Palm Tree from Three Poems from the Song Dynasty. Jennifer Tham/Singapore Youth Choir (Singapore Youth Choir, 2000)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (version for mixed chorus; excerpts). Johor Bahru Chamber Choir (Johor Bahru Chamber Choir Recordings: JBCC 2000, 2000)

Spring Festival. (BandQuest, 2000) (CD-ROM)

Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in (original version). Nachum Erlich, Ulf Hoelscher, violins; Andreas Weiss/Karlsruhe Ensemble (Angel: 7243 5 57179 24, 2001)

Duo Ye No. 1 (version for small orchestra). Shui Lan/Singapore Symphony Orchestra (BIS Records: BIS-CD-1192, 2001)

Concerto (percussion). Dame Evelyn Glennie, percussion; Shui Lan/Singapore Symphony Orchestra (BIS Records: BIS-CD-1222, 2002)

As in a Dream (version for soprano, violin, cello). Continuum (Ilkhom-XX/Open Society Institute Uzbekistan/British Council, 2003)

Wild Grass from Tang Poems (original version). Chanticleer (Teldec: 0927-49702-2, 2003)

Dian. Jiang Ting, pipa (M. A. Recordings: M061A, 2003)

Momentum; Chinese Folk Dance Suite; Dunhuang Fantasy; Romance and Dance (original version); Tu (original version). Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, Cho-Liang Lin, violins; Kimberly Marshall, organ; Shui Lan/Singapore Symphony Orchestra (BIS Records: BIS-CD-1352, 2003)

Romance and Dance (version for violin, piano). Ho Dong, violin; Brenda Tom, piano (ISRC: CN A65-02-562-00/A-J6, 2003)

Qi. Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble (Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, 2005)

Duo Ye No. 1 (original version); Ba Ban. Amy Lin, piano (ABW Classics: ABW 1001)

Eleanor's Gift. Paul Tobias, cello; JoAnn Falletta/Virginia Symphony Orchestra (Albany Records: TROY 648)

Chinese Folk Dance Suite. Penny Thompson Kruse, violin; Emily Freeman Brown/Bowling Green Philharmonia (Albany Records: TROY 743)

As in a Dream (version for soprano, violin, cello). Judith Kellock, soprano (Albany Records: TROY 885)

Qi. J. Karla Lemon/Empyrean Ensemble (Albany Records: TROY 1064–65)

Jing Marimba. Gordon Stout, marimba (Bridge Records: BRIDGE 9311A/B)

Ji-Dong-Nuo. Jane Solose, piano (Capstone Records: CPS-8766)

Song in Winter (version for flute, zheng, piano, percussion). Ensemble Roter Phoenix (Cavalli Records: LC05724)

China West Suite (original version). Dennis Russell Davies, Maki Namekawa, pianos (Cavi-Music: B000ZLNM6S)

Duo Ye No. 1 (original version). Li Fan, piano (Centaur Records: CRC 2652)

The West Lake. Chicago A Cappella (Centaur Records: CRC 2752)

Monologue (Impressions on 'The True Story of Ah Q'). Gregory Oakes, clarinet (Centaur Records: CRC 3038)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (version for mixed chorus, piano; excerpts). Yan Liangkun/China Central Chorus (China Central Chorus)

Dian. Chen Yi-Han, pipa (Delos Productions: DE 3299)

Shuo (original version). Ariel Rudiakov/Manchester Festival String Orchestra (Eroica: JDT 3201)

Septet. Music from China; PRISM Saxophone Quartet (Innova Recordings: 767)

The Golden Flute. Alexa Still, flute; James Sedares/New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Koch International Classics: KIC-CD-3-7566-2)

China West Suite (version for piano, percussion). Strike (Luminescence Records: LUM002)

Tu (version for symphonic band). Craig Paré/DePauw University Band (Mark Masters: 7871-MCD)

Chinese Poems. All-State Mixed and Women's Chorus (Mark Records: B001LU93CO)

Three Bagatelles from China West (original version). Marya Martin, flute; Colette Valentine, piano (Naxos Records: 8.559629)

Monologue (Impressions on 'The True Story of Ah Q'); Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in (version for cello, piano); Chinese Ancient Dances. Beijing New Music Ensemble (Naxos Records: 8.570604) like a raging fire...; Wu Yu (original version); Night Thoughts. The Azure Ensemble (New World Records: 80683-2)

Sound of the Five (original version); Burning; Sprout (version for string quartet); Happy Rain on a Spring Night; Yangko; Tibetan Tunes. Third Angle New Music Ensemble (New World Records: 80691-2)

The Ancient Chinese Beauty. Michala Petri, recorder; Daniil Grishin/Kremerata Baltica (OUR Recordings: 8.226905)

At the Kansas City Chinese New Year Concert. Ying Quartet (Quartz: QTZ2055)

Chinese Poems. Sharon J. Paul/San Francisco Girls Chorus (San Francisco Girls Chorus Recordings: SFGC 0001)

Romance of Hsiao and Ch'in (original version). Cynthia Baehr, Claudia Bloom, violins; Barbara Day Turner/San Jose Chamber Orchestra (San Jose Chamber Orchestra Recordings: BMS SJC01)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (version for mixed chorus; excerpts). Grant W. Cook III/Heidelberg University Chamber Singers (Soundwaves Recording)

A Set of Chinese Folksongs (original version; excerpts). University of Utah Singers (University of Utah Singers: UUS-003)

Singing in the Mountain. Thalia Myers, piano (Usk Recordings: USK 1227CDD)

Fisherman Song (version by the performer); Romance and Dance (version by the performer). Xu Ke, erhu (XUA Records Japan, Inc.: XUAR-2350)