The multi-award winning Australian composer Julian Yu employs a musical language imbued with a high degree of elegance and expressiveness, which are both enhanced by an impeccable craft and special attention to detail.
His music creates a sonic world, which is constantly changing, and always being framed within a clear sense of shape and direction. Without being overtly referential, his music also shows a strong connection with the Western musical tradition as well as with his Chinese roots, thus, creating a very individual musical discourse.
Born in Beijing in 1957, Julian Yu surprised his non-musical family by starting to compose music at the age of 12. In 1973 he left school early to study composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and later joined the teaching staff there. In 1980 he was sent to Japan to study at the Tokyo College of Music under Joji Yuasa and Schin-Ichiro Ikebe. After his return in 1982 he resumed teaching and wrote a lot of music for film, television and radio as a “ghost composer” under other people’s names. In 1985 he migrated to Australia. In 1988, he was selected for a Composition Fellowship at Tanglewood, where he studied with Hans Werner Henze and Oliver Knussen, and was awarded the Koussevitzky Tanglewood Composition Prize for that year.
Since then, Yu has won numerous prizes and much recognition for his composition, including an Australia Council Composer Fellowship and grants from the Australia Council and other organisations such as the Ian Potter Foundation. In 1991 and 1994, an international jury unanimously selected his work for the 1st and 2nd triennial Paul Lowin Orchestral Prizes (Australia’s richest award for composition). Other prizes include the Zen-On Piano 2000 composition prize, and awards in the 56th Japan Music Concours, the 35th Premio Musicale Citta di Trieste, and the 1987, 1989 and 1990 International New Music Composers’ Competition (USA). He composed music for the opening ceremony (Australasian Section) of the Olympic Games in Beijing (with Broadstock and Barton). For his achievements, he was awarded a Doctor of Music (D.Mus) by the University of Melbourne, where he currently teaches Composition and holds an honorary Fellowship.
His music has been performed at ISCM World Music Days (in Switzerland, Mexico, Luxemburg and Hong Kong), and at many other festivals including Gaudeamus, Huddersfield, Munich Biennale and the Asian Composers' League (ACL) festivals.
Major works include Philopentatonia, commissioned by IRCAM for Ensemble InterContemporain and later performed by Ensemble Modern, the London Sinfonietta, and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Heinz Holliger; Three Symphonic Poems, performed by Sydney Symphony under Gunther Schuller; Great Ornamented Fuga Canonica, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oliver Knussen; Wu–Yu, performed by the Tanglewood, BBC, Luxembourg and Hiroshima Orchestras; puppet music theatre The White Snake, commissioned by Hans Werner Henze and performed at the second Munich Biennale International New Music Theatre Festival; Sinfonia Passacaglissima, performed at the Sydney Opera House by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under Markus Stenz; Marimba Concerto, performed by Evelyn Glennie; Not a Stream But an Ocean, commissioned and performed by the BBC Proms; The Future of Water, commissioned by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra; and Willow and Wattle, commissioned by Melbourne Symphony and performed to great acclaim during their tour of China.
“A selection of performances of the work of composer Julian Yu makes Classical Allusion a delight” ★★★★
— Chris Copas, The Star
“Yu's symphonic writing is brilliant [and] highly coloured”
— Dale Keeling, Noteworthy
Julian Yu is featured on the following titles
Robert Schubert plays the clarinet music of Julian Yu. Clarinettist Robert Schubert has always been an admirer of composer Julian Yu’s music ever since they first met in 1996 at the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts.
Compositions by Julian Yu also appear on
Julian Yu composed 20 short classically-related, humorous pieces, commissioned by pianist Ke Lin, calling them "Cutetudes"' (‘cute’ + ‘études’). As well as "Cutetudes" this CD includes two excerpts from Julian Yu's oriental version of Picture at an Exhibition and others.
The tune "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" has fascinated and irritated composers through the ages. In this second collection Julian Yu has commissioned a staggeringly diverse cornucopia of stylistic arrangements of the tune. Michael Kieran Harvey tackles scores from the frivolous to the frenetic, the fragile to the fragrant, the popular to the profound.
Michael Kieran Harvey performs 126 variations on the theme "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" which are composed by Julian Yu. Julian Yu's project presents the tune in an immense range of styles, many of which develop out of well-known classical pieces, as well as jazz and folk music.
Australian piano music by Gifford, Gould, Ford, Yu and Michael Kieran Harvey. Elektra is an experiment in extending acoustic piano sound via computer, and was a collaboration with sound engineer Michael Hewes, who surfed the piano resonances in real time.
Recorded during the Asian Composers' League Festival in 2007, this new recording showcases works by prominent Australian and NZ composers performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kenneth Young.
Unique orchestral arrangements of Pictures at an Exhibition, Gliere's Coloratura Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra, Glinka's The Nighingale, and two movements from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons.
In traditional Chinese music a pre-existing piece is ornamented and embellished until it becomes something quite new. In the same way, Julian Yu takes famous pieces from the Western musical tradition and ornaments them in the Chinese manner.
This CD by highly acclaimed Trio Melbourne features a stunning collection of 20th Century piano trios, including two never-before recorded pieces by Australian composers Sculthorpe and Yu.
Julian Yu also appears on
This new CD features the diverse works of six Australian composers that have taken Asian instruments and voices beyond the boundaries of their own traditions. From dan tranh to sheng, from shakuhachi to erhu, this fascinating recording is cross-cultural music at its best.