Xuefei Yang is acclaimed as one of the world’s finest classical guitarists. Hailed as a musical pioneer – her fascinating journey began after the Cultural Revolution, a period where Western musical instruments & music were banned. Xuefei was the first-ever guitarist in China to enter a music school, & became the first internationally recognised Chinese guitarist on the world stage.
Who inspires you and why?
I take inspiration from many people and in many ways – from great artists and people in the public domain, to ordinary people. I find inspiration from them in many diverse ways. It could be artistic, or it could be seeing their example for how I want to live my life. Art feeds life, and life feeds art, so I take my inspirations on both sides of the equation, to benefit the whole.
What’s the biggest challenge your industry faces?
I think there are two big challenges for the classical music industry – as artists we have to find a way of dealing with the ever declining record industry ; and continue to find ways to bring great music into the lives of more people.
What are your staple wardrobe brands?
My wardrobe contains a big mixture of clothes, from big brands, to high-street brands, to brand-less items. I tend to go after items I like rather than chasing brands. I would feel some satisfaction when someone asks where I got a particular piece of clothing that perhaps they don’t recognise from the familiar brands.
Who would you invite to your perfect dinner party (dead or alive)?
Composers Bach and Chopin, cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, renaissance man Leonardo Da Vinci, author Jane Austin, artist Claude Monet and politician Mahatma Ghandi.
What’s your cheapest and simplest beauty tip?
Eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly & be happy.
How did you achieve your current role?
I don’t know how, but I guess it’s a combination of my passion for music and for my chosen instrument, countless hours of practice, support from others & some good luck.
What would you have told yourself five years ago?
I would have told myself that there is no need to worry too much, things sort themselves out over time. Be serious with what you do, but don’t take things too seriously.
Quirky boutique shops — I like searching for interesting items that are not found on the High Street. When I travel I like to collect some good items that will remind me of the trip. One of my best buys was a teak Buddha head from Thailand, for which I needed to buy an extra suitcase to transport it home ! It makes me feel peaceful when I see it. I also bought a set of beautiful hanging Turkish lights from the market in Istanbul, and I appreciate them each time I switch them on.
Chinese hot pot – you put anything you like into boiling stock in a communal saucepan in the middle of the table – it is a good meal to eat with friends – very sociable and great fun. I feel the desire to eat this dish several times each year.
Has anyone left you star struck?
When I was 17 I met my hero, the guitarist John Williams, in Beijing. Getting to meet my musical hero was something of a star-struck moment for me.
Make up your ultimate ‘super band’…
Imagine what it would be like to hear a group with Piazzolla on bandoneon, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Paco de Lucia on flamenco guitar & Stephan Grappelli on violin !
What’s your daily uniform?
Comfortable jeans and boots plus a cardigan and a scarf
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud and privileged to be living a unique, fulfilling & happy life, with lots of freedom.
Music I’m listening to?
Brazilian music ! It helps to brighten a winter’s day in UK.
What would you delete from your CV?
Nothing, everything I did in the past helped to form who I am today.
Most treasured item/belonging?
My guitars – I have quite a few guitars of different kinds, each with its own story, and more importantly, each with its own unique sound. When I am thinking about flooding risk, the guitars are the first thing I would want to secure.
The book you have most enjoyed reading?
The Dream of the Red Chamber. This is arguably the best novel in Chinese literature. I would never get bored returning to the world of this novel, in which you can find everything about the human experience, from the scale of the individual to the scale of the society. The author also wrote many classic poems which form an integral part of the novel, so as well as being a classic novel, it is also one of the finest collections of Chinese poetry. If you are intrigued to read it, you need to be patient at first as there are hundreds of characters that are revealed over the four volumes.
What qualifications do you need in your industry?
None specifically, in the way that a surgeon would need qualifications for example. I was the very first guitar student to enter a music conservatoire in the whole of China. Afterwards I went to the Royal Academy of Music in London. This education helped me greatly and forms a great part of me being a musician, but it is not the only path to having a career in music. The converse is also true – having the education and musical qualifications doesn’t guarantee a career in music.
Best way to wind down?
Shopping or even window shopping. I also enjoy watching comedies to relax.
Home – I spend a lot of time each year travelling for my work, which I really enjoy. But it gives a special place in my heart for home. I am happy each time I get to spend some time in my own home.
Who should feature next as a Three Six Fiver?
I would be interested to read about violinist Alina Ibragimova, soprano Sumi Jo, and pianist Maria Joao Pires,
What should people look out for?
I will have a new CD out soon in 2016. It is a duet CD with the English tenor Ian Bostridge. It contains music from our ancestors, so naturally includes some ancient Chinese music that I transcribed myself. In the meantime, you can search for my previous recordings on iTunes :