About this Recording
8.223941 - ZHU, J.: Symphonic Fantasia / Symphony No. 4

Zhu Jianer

Zhu Jianer


Symphonic Fantasia: In Memory of Martyrs for Truth (1980)

Sketches in the Mountains of Guizhou, Symphonic Suite (1982)

Symphony No. 4 “6.4.2 – 1” (1990)



A native of the Jing district of Anhui, Zhu Jianer was born in Tianjin and brought up in Shanghai, teaching himself music as a schoolboy. In 1940 he began to write songs, incidental music and music for wind instruments, turning in 1949 to the composition of film scores. In 1955 he went to the Soviet Union, where he was able to take an advanced course in composition at the Moscow Conservatory, completing his studies in 1960, when he returned to China, working successively at the Shanghai Film Studio and the Shanghai Opera, Since 1975 he has served as resident composer to the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, concurrently holding a position as a professor of composition at the Shanghai Conservatory.



Zhu has endeavoured in his work to combine organically Western techniques of composition with Chinese musical thinking, idioms and style, continuously developing and broadening the referential aspect of his music and forming an individual musical language, He occupies a leading position in music in China, with important works that include five symphonies, a symphonic cantata Heroic Poems, music for piano, chamber music, compositions for Chinese instruments and other music, His Symphonic Fantasia won a distinguished award in the AII-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal in 1981 and his Symphony No, 4 won the Grand Prize in the Queen Marie Jose Composition Competition in Switzerland in 1990, In 1991 he was awarded the prize for Outstanding Contribution to Art and Literature, the highest prize in the gift of the Shanghai municipal government.



Many of Zhu Jianer's works, in particular his symphonies, were first performed and won awards at the Shanghai Spring Music Festivals, They have also been performed in various countries, including the former Soviet Union, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Romania, the United States of America and the Philippines and have been well received in international musical circles.


Zhu Jianer's Symphonic Fantasia - In Memory of Martyrs for Truth was completed in 1980 and is a profoundly philosophical composition. The theme of the introduction sounds like a striking question or exclamation, suggesting a mood of drama. The oboe announces a simple and meditative principal theme, later developed by the whole orchestra. Suddenly the brass offer the secondary theme, full of excitement and uneasiness. The ominous beats of the kettle-drums lead to the development section in which the conflict becomes sharper and sharper. At the climax the theme of the introduction returns strongly, but unexpectedly the final cry is interrupted. To the accompaniment of drums the strings sing an elegy. As the music grows calmer, the harp leads to the primary theme from the solo violin, raising the mood to a level of sublimity from which the music turns into a passionate paean of the whole orchestra. In the coda the theme of the introduction can be faintly heard, symbolizing the watchfulness which will remain in the minds of the people. The Symphonic Fantasia was first performed at the Eighth Shanghai Spring Music Festival by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra under Huang Yijun and in 1981 was awarded the Excellent Composition Prize at the AII-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal.



Sketches in the Mountains of Guizhou, a symphonic suite, was completed in 1982 and first performed in May that year at the Tenth Shanghai Spring Music Festival under Cao Peng by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, winning the Performance Prize. It is a true record of the impression given the composer by a visit to the Guizhou mountain areas where the Miao and Dong people live and marks a turning-point in his style. The suite is in four movements. The first of these, A Festive Match of Lusheng, depicts a contest in which the lusheng, a reed-pipe wind instrument popular among the Miao, Yao and Dong peoples, is used by Dong village bands. As the instruments of the bands are tuned differently, the simultaneous playing of hundreds of instruments provides a reverberation that is poly tonal in its effect. In this movement the woodwind and brass represent the respective lusheng bands, overlapping in key, melody and rhythm, with sounds that are rich and colourful and vigorous in mood.



The second movement, The Old Sian-Player, suggests the music of the sian, a kind of vertical flute popular among the Miao people. It has a mellow, quiet sound like a low chant. In this movement the woodwind is used to simulate the sound of the sian and to depict the old musician, intoxicated by his own music and his memories. This is followed by a third movement, Romance in a Moonlight Night, based on a pipa song, a kind of Dong folk-song accompanied by the Dong pipa, a four- or five-string plucked instrument. It is in a special yu mode which closes a melody with the note la, with the third and fourth notes of the mode often higher pitched than usual. The music is of peculiar serenity. The suite ends with Festival. The fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese traditional lunar calendar is a Miao festival. On that day, the Miao people taste the newly harvested rice and sing and dance happily to celebrate the occasion. In the middle part of the movement, against the background of the lusheng music in seven-four time, the orchestra plays a chiayang (flying song), a kind of Miao folk-song.



Zhu Jianer's Symphony No.4: "6.4.2 - 1", a chamber symphony for bamboo flute and 22 strings, was completed in May 1990 for the Queen Marie Jose International Composition Competition in which it won the sole Grand Prize. According to the rules of the competition, the orchestra consists of six first violins, six seconds, four violas, four cellos, two double basses and a solo wind instrument. The composer uses the Chinese bamboo flute as the solo instrument, with the soloist using in turn three flutes of different pitches, giving the symphony a very sharp and specific characteristic. With the four numbers 6, 4, 2 and 1, the proportion of string instruments in the orchestra, a twelve-tone series is devised, which is also used to control the rhythm. Various traditional Chinese instrumental techniques are used in the string writing, which also employs percussive effects, in the absence of percussion instruments.


The chamber symphony is an abstract work in a single movement, suggesting the Chinese Taoist principle of developing from nothing and back to nothing. By presenting different tone colours and even minute changes of colour on a single note, the richness and profundity of the boundless universe is revealed.

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