It wasn’t just a performance of music, it was a very expressive cultural experience,” said Julie Watkins, a freshman nursing student, of Tuesday night’s event at Gardner Hall. World-renowned Chinese accordion prodigy, Tian Jianan, performed 11 pieces in a spell-binding concert in celebration of Chinese New Year, the year of the monkey.
Jianan studied music at multiple schools, including China’s Central Conservatory of Music, under the guidance of skilled musicians like Cao Xiaoqing. Jianan’s musicality is unexpected for someone of her age — she is only 21 years old. Despite her youth, however, Jianan has become very successful. She has recorded four CDs, beginning when she was as young as 14 years old.
Sponsored by several important organizations, namely the Confucius Institute, the event featured Jianan’s unique interpretations of familiar and culturally significant works. The evening began with Jianan’s performance on a bayan, a chromatic button-keyboard accordion. This produces a deep, resonate and symphonic texture that evokes a meditative and inspiring experience. The first pieces enveloped the room with their sound. Slow and mysterious melodies transformed into invigorating and intense harmonies. It was as if there was a full orchestra playing behind her.
The sound was vivid and exhilarating. The blend of French suites, Chinese melodies and unique compositions captivated the entire audience. Many say it is a telling sign of a successful musician that they move their bodies along with the music. Jianan’s expressiveness electrified the whole crowd. The chords produced a mosaic of sounds that reverberated across the room, dancing along the walls.
“The deeper, more mellow sounds and the contrasting dynamics she chose made the concert that much more incredible,” said Mike O’Connell, a freshman nursing student.
The second set of songs Jianan chose featured a specially-made “top model” accordion with free bass and a lighter tone. This unique design allows for more versatility for the accordion’s performance. Included in this set were Brahms and the famous Ave Maria. Jianan’s enchanting utilization of the unique accordion provided an intricate harmony and that classic vibrato sound attributed to strings. Her music was lighter and fresher than the first set, but equally as fascinating.
The event was put on, in part, by Brooke Horejsi, the executive director at Utah Presents and the associate dean of the Art and Creative Engagement in the College of Fine Arts here at the U. She has traveled to China twice in recent years, where she discovered the talents of Tian Jianan. Inspired by her uniqueness and skill, Horejsi collaborated with The Confucius Institute to bring her to the U.S.
Jianan had the opportunity to perform at Purdue University before coming to the U. Horejsi hopes “in future to find more artists to collaborate with” and run more events like this.