Gustav Mahler composed Das Lied von der Erde using poems by great poets from the Chinese Tang Dynasty including Li Bai, Meng Haoran, Qian Qi, and Wang Wei. Das Lied von der Erde has given western audiences an idea of the context and vocal effect of Chinese poetry. Although the music is without comparison, it cannot reflect the full beauty and artistic conception of the original Chinese poems because the German text is based on translations from versions in other languages.
For this reason, Ye Xiaogang has composed a Chinese version of Das Lied von der Erde with the original poems. Unlike Mahler’s work for tenor and mezzo-soprano, Ye’s is scored for soprano and baritone, and the order of the poems in the libretto has been changed. Whereas Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde reflected his philosophy of sadness and disillusion, Ye’s version demonstrates his ceaseless ambition to express the original grandeur and beauty of the Chinese poems of the Tang Dynasty.