Chen Yi’s Olympic Fire was commissioned by the KT Wong Foundation and the BBC to celebrate the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Premiering at the Royal Albert Hall for the world famous BBC Proms, this unique piece integrated contemporary Western styles with Chinese folk song.
A 15-minute piece charged with energy, Olympic Fire fuses intonations of Chinese melody with the sort of rhythmic pizzazz often associated with Leonard Bernstein. Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Leonard Slatkin, it wowed audiences and critics alike.
Chen, who experienced the turmoil of China’s Cultural Revolution during her youth, believes the piece is an expression of the Olympic spirit, capturing the concept of modern China as integral to the global community. As Chen herself remarks:
‘Olympic Fire evokes the image of fire, not just as a physical power but also as a spiritual power… to embody the idea of different cultures meeting and transforming’.
* Since its premiere in 2008, Chen Yi’s Olympic Fire has been retitled Rhyme of Fire.