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Yi-Kwei Sze

Yi-Kwei Sze (1915-1994)

This page is dedicated to Isabel's beloved teacher, Mr. Yi-Kwei Sze (1915-1994).  
Born in Shanghai, Mr. Sze graduated with the highest honors from that city's National Conservatory.   In America, where he arrived in 1947, he continued studies with the legendary bass Alexander Kipnis.   In 1950, he made his American debut as the King of Egypt in Aida at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco and he made his New York recital debut at Town Hall.   He was incredibly successful at both venues and soon his career took him around the world.   With a repertory spanning six languages, he sang with orchestras and in opera houses throughout Europe.   Mr. Sze appeared with Herbert von Karajan at both La Scala in Milan, and with the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in New York.   He performed with the San Francisco Symphony in thirteen engagements between 1955 and 1971.  After retiring from the stage in 1979, he continued to devote his life to music, teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music at Rochester University where he and his wife established the Yi-Kwei and Nancy Lee Sze Scholarship for music students from China.
In 1989 he retired from teaching and settled in Lafayette, California where Isabel became his student.   Mr. Sze was kind but firm, strict but patient.   He knew how to motivate his students.  He gave advise but not demands.  He spoke honestly. but not rudely.  He taught Isabel everything he learned with no reservations and always acted upon her best interest.  He taught her to sing with feeling and to teach with heart.
"Mr. Sze was a great artist, a kind father, a good friend and a great mentor to me.  It was his completeness as a human being as much as his beauty of voice that enabled him to reveal musical secrets to the whole world.  I feel very lucky that I was one of his students and honored that I am able to pass on what he had taught me." - Isabel Mao


Dutch Minister of Culture and Education, Maarten Vrolijk, presents Yi-Kwei Sze with the Edison Recording Award at the Grand Gala du Disque Classique in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.


Yi-Kwei Sze with Mrs. Nancy Lee Sze, a pianist from the Julliard School of Music, at a banquet honoring his Edison Recording Award achievement, Amsterdam.

Here are sample recodings of Yi-Kwei Sze.  Due to limited storage space, only a few songs are uploaded at the moment.  More songs will be added or updated periodically.   Please click the play button (the triangle facing right of the front panel of the simulated tape player) to start.  Please email me if you have difficulty to hear the music.

Volga Boatman
This song was selected from Mr. Sze's Carnegie Hall Concert in 1968 with Brooks Smith at the piano.  It was one of his encore pieces.  Notice the dynamic range from ppp to fff, simulating the boat's coming and going.

The following several Chinese art songs were selected from an out of print Concert Hall label LP (1948?) of Mr. Sze's recording of all Chinese art songs.  Mrs. Nancy Sze was the accompanist at the paino.
How Can I Not Think Of Him
 Composed by Yuan-Ren Chao a professor of lingustics at UC Berkeley.