Man-Ching Donald Yu

Composer and pianist




Dr. Man-Ching Donald Yu (b.1980), Hong Kong born composer and pianist. His music has received various reviews internationally while being described as “Forming an arresting and personal intermixing of tonal and atonal languages, with the musical colors and gestures of his native country infiltrating the mix.”(Fanfare Magazine).

As a prolific composer, more than hundreds compositional works ranges from chamber, vocal, electroacoustic, Chinese instrumental works to opera, choral works and symphonies. His works have been featured at various international festivals and venues throughout the North and South America, Europe and Asia, such as the EurAsia International Music Festival, Yekaternburg Russia (2017), the 24th International Review of Composers, Serbia (2015), the Expo Milano, Italy “Music Today in China” (2015), the International Festival of Modern Art: Two Days and Two Nights of New Music at the Odessa Philharmonic Theater (2011, 2015), the International Festival of Modern Music “Kyiv Music Fest” (2014). and among others; His music has been performed and/or commissioned by the Uzhgorod Philharmonic with chorus, the Opera Hong Kong Chorus with the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra, the Chernivtsi Philharmonic, the Lugansk Philharmonics, Icarus Ensemble, Ensemble Dialog, Duo Pianistico di Firenze, Senza Sforzando Ensemble, the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir, the Yao Yuen Chinese Music Orchestra, and many others. Yu’s music is published in Italy, Germany, Portugal, United States and Japan. Music recordings are recorded on Ablaze and Hugo Records, as well as on Albany and Zimbel Records in which he performs his own music. As a pianist, he has performed a diverse repertoire and collaborated with numerous instrumentalists and singers in different countries such as Hong Kong, Macau, Serbia, Italy, Austria, Germany and United States, including the Mozarteum International Summer Academy, Salzburg (2007. Yu started learning piano at age 10 and made his concerto debut twice with Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra at age 16. Later he also earned a Licentiate Diploma (L.R.S.M.) in piano performance from the Royal Schools of Music. His interpretation of own pieces is described as “prowess at keyboard.”(Fanfare).

Apart from mainly being a composer and pianist, Yu is also active as a scholar as well as an educator. As a theorist, his papers have been presented in different international conferences including the 2015 Keele Music Analysis Conference (U.K.) as well as published in scholarly books and music journals such as Cambridge Scholars Publishing (U.K.) and New Sound International Journal of Music (Serbia). As a lecturer, from the beginning of 2007, he taught music history, music theory and composition at various institutions including the Hong Kong International Institute of Music, the Community College of City University of Hong Kong, and the Education University of Hong Kong.

Yu earned his B.Mus. degree in piano performance and composition from the Baylor University (U.S.), studying piano performance with Krassimira Jordan of the Russian piano school. Later he received a scholarship to continue his music study at the International Summer Academy Mozarteum Salzburg in Austria. Subsequently he received his Ph.D. in composition and music theory with the support of a full postgraduate research assistantship at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Additionally, he obtained a Fellowship Diploma (F.T.C.L.) in Music Composition from Trinity College London. Since 2007 he has received various awards, funds, grants and honorable mentions from different organizations, locally and overseas, including those from ASCAP (U.S.), Sir Edward Youde Memorial Council and Newly Published Music Competition (NFA – U.S.).




What does music mean to you personally?

Music is an abstract art form that concerns with time and sound. It is an art form which is rather different from other kinds of arts such as visual arts, paintings and sculpture, in that it reflects more systematic, structural, and logical manipulation among different abstract parameters including rhythm, pitches, and harmonies. Those elements serve as building blocks for further developing into a whole piece as coherent whole, and thus, music can always be considered as frozen architecture in which inner details reflect different emotions and thoughts and even an idea or image.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

To some extent, music can be related to fantasy, in particular when referring to the music composed in the former periods like Romantic period like programmatic music, in which composer more often draws inspiration from literature and drama, and those characters are mostly fictional and the story must be some sorts of fantasy-like. However, some music is not necessarily related to fantasy, and those often reflects the reality of life or society during the particular time or political turmoil, etc. On the other hand, music like classical sonata and symphony retain more pure musical ideas, and these types of music is referred to as absolute music, thus, it might be confined lesser to fantasy. As a contemporary composer, however, fantasy remains an important primordial factor for sparkling imagination as one can notice in the music of many minimalist composers or even Avant-Grade composers.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

If I am not a musician, I might become a scientist, as my secondary interest is astronomy. Since I was young, I am fascinated with planets and stars, and I believe those divine creation of nature has a particular sort of energy which has more or less the same function as the harmonies of musical sound. In fact, most of the titles of the pieces are directly inspired from nature and science, and I find those inspiration drives my imagination of music ideas quite well.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

I am not worried about that at all, as there are always substantial balances of younger generation or middle-age generation who would like to appreciate different sorts of music, and I will just be myself to compose whichever music that I prefer.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I believe that the trend of the contemporary music gradually brings back tonality, and there are diverse exploration of tonal styles that we could experiment and explore in neo-tonal music, and as a composer, I believe that strategy for publicizing in wider public is rather prominent and one cannot underrate the importance of reviving the exploration of tonal elements in contemporary music.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

Suddenly I come to my mind is minimalistic music, music with neo-tonality or new simplicity, and those styles are absolutely nothing more than reacting against the burgeoned nature of Avant-Grade music. Among the contemporary composers, Ligeti’s music is the one who has substantial influences on my recent works, as some of his works manifest the revival of traditional backbone as well as minimalistic materials.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Yes, creativity is always crucial and a determining factor for generating originality of music materials. Also, imagination with substantial theoretical knowledge of music theory as well as concrete traditional training are particularly important for fostering creativity for composing contemporary music, and I consider these as the synthetic factors for creating original work, and thus creativity is absolutely important for composing any genres of music in my different timelines as a composer.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

Yes, classical music concerts are extremely important while believing that the general knowledge of classical music needs to be filtrated among wider public, especially in younger generation, and music is part of the assesses construing our humanity in the world history. Therefore, general music appreciation curriculum needs to be incorporated into most of the college or even high-school programs, and on the other hand, educational concerts could be arranged for youngsters for enhancing the knowledge of classical music, in particular the significance of contemporary music in the 21st century, which develops and transforms as an important trend in music history

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

I always think of a suitable and interesting title which serve as a central inspiration for my creativity. I plan with an overall large-scale structure in association with different parameters that might arise in each place. Then I initiate with basic important musical sounds and ideas which characterize each section, those ideas are transformed in various manners resulting in differentiating different sound effects and outcomes. Building up inner tension and energy level are also important for in my creative processes and that those factors contribute to the overall shapes of the whole piece. I don’t have a particular favorite piece, but I feel that my recent pieces forge and refine my recent musical styles---partial minimalistic gestures, tonal exploration with unique sound effects.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Yes, these combination are absolute great, and most of my music are inspired from different artworks ranging from surrealistic to modern oriental arts. Literature and poetry are my other important sources for merging text and music together. Some of my pieces even experiment with multi-media, in which music describes the different scenes in the video. These inter-disciplinary art forms break and out stretch the ultimate meaning of music within itself in that music can be married with different other art forms for highlighting its effects.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Passion is paramount important for every younger generation who would like to discover classical music, and thanks to the technology nowadays, they can easily get access to youtubes and those medium always serve as excellent opportunities for them to explore more. Young people could be encouraged to attend educational music concerts and even create music ideas for themselves, and I believe that music creativity is not limited to professional musician, but it can equally be developed by amateurs and those who have passion in music.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

I think classical music is really a market in the modern world, and contemporary music is still facing substantial challenges for marketing to wider public as most repertoires are dominated by classical composers which are considered as the main core of concert programmes. If one wants to have market in contemporary music, accessible styles for wider public and audience are really necessary, and movie music provides a good example of being rather success in terms of commercial values.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

My expectation is that audience can always broaden their sense to appreciate music, not just the traditional classical repertoires, but also the contemporary diverse styles of tonal music. Therefore, inter-disciplinary art is one of the ways that can bring close the music to the audience.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

There are always new projects that I plan to compose in each year, and I plan to compose constantly in different genres. Forthcoming projects might include orchestral work as well as piano concerto and I always experiment with my recent styles such as exploration of different sound effects under the realm of tonal hierarchy.