2008 Honorary Fellow
Born into an artistic family, Chen Qigang began learning music as a child, and studied at the Affiliated Middle School of the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Although suffering a lot during the Cultural Revolution, his passion for music remained unwavering and he continued to study composition. In 1977, the Government re-established the competitive system for entering full-time music schools, and Chen Qigang was one of 26 candidates out of two thousand who successfully passed the entrance examination to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where he studied composition for five years with Luo Zhonghong. He came first in the National Postgraduate Contest of 1983, and had the opportunity to go abroad to study for a Master’s degree. He studied on a state grant for four years with Olivier Messiaen, and worked at IRCAM in Paris and at the Academia Chigiana in Siena. In 1988, he obtained his Diplome Supérieur de Composition at the Ecole Normale de Musique, and in 1989, the Diplome de Musicologie at the Université de Sorbonne.
The many awards for his compositions include the First Prize awarded by the French Ministry of Culture for his quintet for clarinet and string quartet in the Buffet Crampon International Composition Contest in Paris in 1986; ‘Stipendienpreis’ at the 34th Summer Festival in Darmstadt in 1988: First Prize in the 27th International Contest of Symphony Composition of Citta di Trieste; the Nadia and Lili Boulanger grant in 1989 and 1992; and in 1990 he was named ‘Musician of the Year’ by the Chinese press. In 2005 he received the highest honour in France, a lifetime award from SACEM of Le Grand Prix de la Musique Symphonique. His latest CD Extase received the prize for the ‘Best CD of Contemporary Music for 2006’ from the Charles Gros Academy. He is Music Director for Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Games.
Among his many distinguished compositions are: Wu Xing (The Five Elements) for symphony orchestra, which won the finalists award of ‘Masterprize’ in the UK; Instants d'un Opéra de Pékin commissioned by the Olivier Messiaen International Piano Competition 2000; his four act ballet Raise the Red Lantern based on Zhang Yimou’s film of the same title, was premièred by the China National Ballet in Beijing in 2001. The orchestral suite Iris Dévoilée for three female voices, three traditional Chinese instruments and symphony orchestra, was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation and premièred by Tang Muhai and the Orchestre National de France in 2002, and Un temps disparu for erhu and orchestra, was commissioned by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal in 2002.