The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Yi-Hsun ‘Irene’ Tang premieres curated horn compositions two-part recital at UI

‘The Sound of Formosa’ introduced audiences to freshly premiered original horn and piano compositions from composers in Taiwan.
Olivia Hamilton
Irene poses for a photo after her performance in Iowa City on Sept. 2, 2023.

The recital hall at the Voxman Music Building was filled on Sunday afternoon with an audience watching an empty grand piano in anticipation. The lights dimmed and Yi-Hsun “Irene” Tang emerged from behind red doors to take her position center stage.

On Aug. 27 and Sept. 2, the University of Iowa hosted “The Sound of Formosa,” a two-part horn and piano recital series that displayed a collection of established and newly commissioned musical compositions from Taiwanese composers. 

Professionally trained horn player Tang is receiving her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the UI. She studies under Katy Ambrose, visiting assistant professor of horn. This recital series was a culmination of her recent research in Taiwan. 

Tang was raised in Western Taiwan and started playing the French horn in ninth grade. She attended the Chinese Culture University in Northern Taiwan for her undergraduate education where she honed her craft under Kimi Cheng, a professor and member of the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. 

She then attended the Manhattan School of Music for her Master of Music and then served as a sectional teacher in Taiwan with elementary school horn students. 

Tang now instructs horn performance teaching methods to UI students majoring in music education. 

While Taiwanese is her first language, Tang enjoys teaching the horn in English. 

“It challenges your brain, and you can learn different cultures,” Tang said. 

Tang wanted to share Taiwanese culture with Iowa City, but the idea didn’t start with the two-part recital.

It started in Denton, Texas, at the International Women’s Brass Conference in the summer of 2022. Tang and Ambrose arrived at the conference with intentions to attend recitals and compete in a horn competition, but they left with newly discovered musical scores written by Taiwanese composers that they found at Cimarron Press’ conference booth. 

They took the collection back to Iowa and continued to build a collection of Taiwanese horn and piano compositions. Tang traveled to Taiwan to search and interview composers to commission for her recital in Iowa. 

Tang showcased the Taiwanese musician Wan-Yun Liang’s work during her first recital on Aug. 27, which included the premiere of “Sonatine for Horn and Piano No. 1,” a piece composed especially for the event. The recital also included Liang’s transcription of “Flying Blossom in Spring” for the horn. 

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Tang then commissioned Wan-Yun Liang’s friend, Chang-An Chen, for a piano rendition of a horn and wind band composition and for a new sonata. The horn concertino from the “Concertino for Horn and Wind Band (Piano Reduction)” premiered at the National Concert Hall in 2019. 

The Sept. 2. performance began with “Tianyou” for Horn and Piano by Chi-Jou “Tt.” Cho, a film and game music composer from Taiwan. It is inspired by the Tianyou Peak located in the Wuyi Mountains of Xiamen, China.

The piece describes the perspective of a person climbing the mountain and is divided into five parts: “Introduction,” “Uphill,” “Jiuqu,” “Tianyou,” and “Theme Reappearance.” Songs drew upon the imagery of a misty haze covering the ground below the Tianyou Peak and views of the Jiuqu River in China. 

Tang hopes that the recital encourages musicians to recognize the talent of Asian musicians and encourage them to source traditional Western music, such as horn and piano compositions from Taiwanese composers.

“There’s not only Western-written music for horn and piano — there’s still Asian or Taiwanese composers,” Tang said. “They have the music for horn and piano.”

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About the Contributor
Olivia Hamilton
Olivia Hamilton, Arts Reporter
Olivia Hamilton is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in 3D Design. Prior to her role as an Arts Reporter at The Daily Iowan, Olivia was a videographer at the California publication, City on a Hill Press.