About this Recording
8.223579 - DING: Long March Symphony
English 

Shande Ding (1911–1995)
Long March Symphony

 

Foreword to the New CD Version

Ding Shande

I finished my composition the Long March Symphony in 1962, after working for some three years from the original conception to writing the last notes of the score. Throughout this period it was the Long March itself, the amazing achievement of the Chinese Worker’s and Peasants’ Red Army over a distance of 25,000 miles, that was the powerful driving-force urging and encouraging me on. Since its publication, it has proved equally popular with musicians and an enormous audience. In the case of recordings, by the late 1980s there were four different recorded versions, the 1963 version by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra under Huang Yijun, the 1978 Nagoya Symphony Orchestra recording under Lin Kechang (Lim Kek Chiang), the 1983 version by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under Yoshichi Fukumura and the 1987 version by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra under Chen Xieyang. The present recording is the fifth, a result of collaboration between the young Chinese conductor Yu Long and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Having recently received from Yu Long abroad a cassette tape of the new recording, I am completely satisfied with his treatment of the symphony and with the performance of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. My satisfaction may in part be because I once analysed and explained the Long March Symphony to Yu Long (he is my grandson), but chiefly it reflects his own hard work and the welcome cooperation of this prominent Czech orchestra.

The new Compact Disc version of the Long March Symphony is soon to be released. I hope it will be appreciated by even more people, and with even greater eagerness I await more and more Chinese symphonies as a focus of world attention.

The Long March Symphony

The Long March was the strategic transfer of the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army in the Second Revolutionary Civil War from their base areas south and north of the Yangtse River to an area in North Shaanxi. This transfer began with strategic action by the Sixth Central Red Army in the Hunan-Jiangxi base area in August 1934 and by the Central Red Army in October the same year, and ended with the meeting of the First, Second and Fourth Front Armies in Huining, Gansu, in 1936. The difficulties and dangers that the Red Army underwent and the heroism displayed by the soldiers during the 25,000 li course of the march amazed the whole word and aroused universal admiration. It was the victory of the Long March that opened up the prospect of the Chinese Revolution.

Ding Shande’s Long March Symphony, Opus 16, is in five movementss. The composer began the work in 1959 and by 1961 had finished the first three movements, which were performed at the Second Shanghai Spring Music Festival in the same year. In 1962 he completed the whole work, which was performed in its entirety at the Third Shanghai Spring Music Festival. For the composition of the symphony the composer made a special tour to Jiangxi, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan and other provinces, from the winter of 1958 to the spring of 1959, studying the terrain through which the marchers passed and gathering musical materials for his symphony.

1. Setting Out on the Road

The first movement starts with a long slow introduction which depicts the atmosphere of the time and the anxiety and indignation of the people, with their desire to resist the Japanese aggressors. The movement makes use of the well-known Red Army song Three Main Rules of Disciplin and Eight Points for Attention as a principal theme, and a cheerful and lively episode expresses the dauntless courage of the Red Army and optimistic fortitude of the soldiers. Two secondary themes are derived respectively from folk-songs of Yunan and of Fujian. The development section of the movement shows the scene of battle and the will of the people. As the music presses on to a climax, the recapitulation begins.

2. The Red Army, Beloved of Many Peoples

The Miao folk-song style melody played by the woodwind, with the side-drum stressing the rhythmic step of the Red Army soldiers, evokes the situation of the mountain area, inhabited by brotherly minority races. After the introduction there is a dance scene, with a n Allegro section, a section that moves from Lento to Vivace and a coda. Music material is drawn from a Yao dance, Yunnan folk-songs, the popular Yunnan huadeng and Tibetan duixie. Variation technique and polyphonic textures are employed, with melodies recalling Red Army marches interposed. All these make of the movement a splendid dance, a magnificent paean of praise to the warm relationship between the Red Army and the different ethnic.

3. Stroming and Capture of the Luting Bridge

The Luring Bridge was a chain-bridge across the Dadu River, a tributary of the Yangtze in West Sichuan. It was also the inevitable route that the Red Army had to take on its journey westwards. In order to intercept the Red Army, the Kuomintang troops removed all the planks of the bridge and put a barrage of fire at the bridgehead on the opposite bank of the river. Under heavy enemy fire a shock section of eighteen brave Red Army men crawled over the chains of the bridge and destroyed the opposing forces, thus making possible the crossing of the whole army. This movement is a Scherzo. With rushing notes the music expresses the dauntless heroism shown by the soldiers in battle. At the beginning the strings play the theme of the Red Army’s rapid march. In the course of the development of the music, imitative counterpoint enriches its expressive possibilities. In addition to this, two derivative themes are used, to express both the inflexible purpose and the optimism of the men. After fierce conflict between positive and negative forces, a powerful string theme appears and a clarion call to advance.

4. Crossing Snowy Mountains and Grassland

Depicting the untrodden snow-covered mountains and the open grassland, the movement shows the heroic struggle of the Red Army against nature, regardless of difficulties and dangers, hunger and cold, revealing the unshakable revolutionary belief of the soldiers that only when seas are in turmoil can heroes show their mettle. The movement is in three parts. The first adopts a melody from song sung by the Red Army soldiers, the second is based on a strong melody of rising fourths and fifths and the third allows a solo violin to introduce a Tibetan folk-song, romantically indicating that even in extreme hardship the revolutionary spark still flickers in the hears of Red Army troops. The fifth movement, in sonata-form, but without a development section, opens with a fugato representing the breakthrough of Lazikou Pass, the Red Army’s final battle before the final triumph. After this introduction there are two principal themes, the first derived from a revolutionary song of victory and the second a dance in triple time. In the recapitulation the first of the secondary themes changes from Allegretto to Andante, its character moving from the lyrical to the brilliantly majestic. The introduction of the first movement, now transformed from the meditative to the energetic, appears in recapitulation as a march. Finally the orchestra states boldly the first of the secondary themes and there is a coda that proclaims and praises the victory of the Long March.

5. Triumphant Meeting

The fifth movement, in sonata-form, but without a development section, opens with a fugato representing the breakthrough of Lazikou Pass, the Red Army’s final battle before the final triumph. After this introduction there are two principal themes, the first derived from a revolutionary song of victory and the second a dance in triple time. In the recapitulation the first of the secondary themes changes from Allegretto to Andante, its character moving from the lyrical to the brilliantly majestic. The introduction of the first movement, now transformed from the meditative to the energetic, appears in recapitulation as a march. Finally the orchestra states boldly the first of the secondary themes and there is a coda that proclaims and praises the victory of the Long March.


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