“...a breath of fresh air on our musical landscape”
- The Straits Times
"...music from a voice of the future"
- BBC Radio 3
The music of Chen Zhangyi has been described by Straits Times as “a breath of fresh air on our musical landscape” and by BBC Radio 3 as “music from a voice of the future.” He has worked with London Symphony, Tokyo Philharmonic, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra (Santa Cruz, CA), Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), Singapore Lyric Opera (SLO), L'arietta, The Opera People (TOP), Ensemble Ripieno (PH), and Stradivari Quartet (Switzerland).
Nature is often a source of inspiration in Zhangyi's music. Orchestral works like Rain Tree, Vanda (violin concerto), and Of An Ethereal Symphony offer soundscapes of our environment, flora and fauna, and cosmic motion. In collaboration with librettist Dr. Sara Florian, the chamber operas Arianna on Another Island (TOP), and the Nanyang-inflected Kampung Spirit (SLO) also touch on the theme of nature and climate change.
The musical representation of Singaporean culture may be found in the chamber operas Laksa Cantata, Window Shopping, and Kopi For One, which form A Singapore Trilogy (libretto by Jack Lin). Zhangyi's opera output also include Panic Love (libretto by Felix Cheong), and A Day, A Lily, a docu-opera about dementia. With Twin Cinema, a string nonet written for the Stradivari Quartet and SSO, the iconic Singaporean poetic form was reimagined through a chamber music setting, sonically projecting the twin cinema's split-screen symmetry and multifold narratives. Within the larger Asian context, the 'Triple' Concerto for Erhu, Ruan and Percussion《三人行》was written for the YST Conservatory Orchestra for its 2019 Korea tour led by Jason Lai, featuring soloists Likie Low, Sulwyn Lok, and Yuru Lee.
Zhangyi was conferred the Young Artist Award (YAA) by the National Arts Council (Singapore) in 2014. His work Ariadne's Love was one of the winning works of the Abbey Road Studios Anthem Competition, recorded by London Symphony Orchestra and Eric Whitacre Singers. His music are released on United Records (A Singapore Trilogy, L'arietta), Centaur Records (The Seven Angels, Phoon Yu), and Naxos Records (Of An Ethereal Symphony, Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya).
As an educator, Zhangyi serves as Assistant Professor at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YST) of the National University of Singapore, where he currently teaches analysis, composition, and led the new music ensemble OpusNovus (2016-18). Through his module 'Text and Music', Zhangyi has co-curated (with Dr. Sara Florian) several creative projects in collaboration with the Asian Civilisations Museum: Waves and Waves (2020), and Suite Ensemble (2021). Zhangyi received degrees from YST (BMus), and The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University (MM and DMA).
Zhangyi also plays the viola with Red Dot Baroque.