About this Recording
8.223940 - ZHU, J.: Symphony No. 1 / Festival Overture

Zhu Jianer

Zhu Jianer

Orchestral Works



Festival Overture (1958)

Symphony No. 1 (1986)



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's Festival Overture was completed in 1958 and first performed the following year by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, directed by A. Belovusov. Although the work is in traditional sonata form, it has a distinctive Chinese style. The melody of the introduction is typical of Chinese suona music and runs through the whole piece. The principal theme is jubilant, lively and characteristic of Chinese gong and drum rhythm. The secondary theme, graceful, lyrical and permeated with the flavour of Shanxi, extols happy life. In the central development the lively principal theme is treated symphonically and shows a certain versatility. Sometimes it appears resolute and forceful and sometimes grandiose and powerful. In the coda, with a slackening of speed, it becomes magnificent and brilliant, like the fireworks on a carnival festival night, symbolizing an even more glorious future.


The Symphony No.1 is epic, philosophical and dramatic in conception. It was completed in 1986, after a nine year period of gestation. The symphony reminds the audience of the disastrous Cultural Revolution, which came to an end ten years before the "work was finished, and profoundly reflects the doubt, surprise, agony and resentment of the people during that period and the struggle between the true and the false, good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly. As the composer points out, the symphony is not a narrative of historical events but looks back at events philosophically from a historical point of view. The abstract punctuation marks used as titles for the four movements, which are internally related, reflect the psychological reaction of the people.


The theme of the introduction of the first movement is very important, the motive force of the whole creation and the direct source of the fugal theme of the fourth movement. The principal theme of the first movement is meditative and only in the finale is it completely recapitulated, with the two outer movements echoing each other. The two inner movements are separate episodes, the first of them a scherzo, a satirical cartoon, while the third movement, marked Lento, is one of wordless sorrow. The symphony seems influenced to some extent by the musical qualities and idioms of Shostakovich, with similarities in content and other features. Although serial and various polyphonic techniques are used, the application is distinctive, with a combination of traditional techniques and Chinese musical language. The symphony was first performed at the Twelfth Shanghai Spring Music Festival in May 1986 and won the first composition prize on that occasion.


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