1. She Threw Me a Quince
2. Oh, You with the Blue Collar
3. Plucking the Rushes
5. In the Tavern
The Book of Songs was commissioned by Ian Bostridge and Xuefei Yang. The first performance was given by Robin Tritschler and Xuefei Yang at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London, 30th November 2014. The work was toured by Ian Bostridge and Xuefei Yang in the UK, Norway, Germany, Hong Kong, China, and South Korea in October and November 2015.
The Book of Songs is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. The three hundred poems date from the 11th to 7th centuries BC and illustrate many aspects of private and public life – courtship, marriage, lamentation, separation, fighting, feasting, singing, dancing, and drinking. This song cycle draws on poems from the Book of Songs and on other sources of ancient Chinese poetry.
The folksong-like opening poem concerns the exchange of gifts in early courtship. In contrast, Oh, You with the Blue Collar is introspective and melancholic – why does the singer’s young lover no longer visit? The third song describes a trip by two lovers to pluck rushes. Somehow they do not manage to pick a single handful all day. Pastoral, for guitar solo, is a contemplation of the countryside in springtime, with soft breeze blowing in the long grass and tall trees. This interlude is taken from the companion piece Illustrations to the Book of Songs (2014) for solo guitar. In the Tavern considers the temptation of drink and Lament evokes the pain of the loss of a loved one.
The name “Xuefei” is taken from The Book of Songs.