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Chia-Yu Hsu wins international composition honor

| Judy Berthiaume

Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu, an active composer of contemporary concert music and an assistant professor of music at UW-Eau Claire, is the winner of a prestigious contest hosted by a San Francisco-based chamber ensemble.

The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble named Hsu’s “Rhapsody Toccata” the 2017 winner of its annual composition contest, which drew 125 entries from composers in 13 countries.

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble will perform the piece during its 2017-18 season.

“Winning competitions always makes me happy because it shows that people recognize the music I write,” Hsu says. “I am happy there will be performances of the piece in other venues. I'm excited about returning for the performances to San Francisco, where last year I had a performance of my trio, ‘Urban Sketches,’ performed after winning the Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composer’s Award.”

Hsu says the winning composition, “Rhapsody Toccata,” is her attempt to blend two contrasting styles, toccata and jazz, into a cohesive structure.

In the beginning of the piece, the toccata takes the lead, with jazz music gradually moving in, expanding and taking over.

In her composition notes, Hsu states that the winning piece “intends to showcase the virtuosic techniques of the pianist and his or her interpretation of wondering freely in between these two styles. It poses a good challenge for the pianist to master the piece.”

Born in Taiwan, Hsu derives inspirations from different materials, such as poems, myths and images. However, the combination of Chinese elements and western techniques is the hallmark of her music.

Her music has been recognized with awards from national and international competitions, and has been performed by orchestras and at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world.

Hsu received her bachelor of music from the Curtis Institute of Music, master’s degree and artist diploma from Yale University and Ph.D. at Duke University.

Founded in 1992, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble performs new and old chamber music, highlighting in its concerts the origins and future of music.