|About this Recording
8.225827 - DU, Mingxin / WU, Zuqiang: Mermaid Suite (The) / QU, Wei: Harvest Scenes (Gunma Symphony, Kektjiang Lim)
The Mermaid (Ballet Suite)
The joint composers of the Mermaid Suite, drawn from a popular ballet of the late 1950s, are well known in China. In particular both composers were concerned with the composition of The Red Detachment of Women, one of the so-called Revolutionary Ballets. The Mermaid is less charged with political significance, its dances representing the somewhat foreign notion of the fishwoman, however typical the actual dance titles.
Ginseng has great significance as a panacea. Growing in Korea and Manchuria, its root is highly prized for its medicinal properties, which may be related to its forked human resemblance. Its magical properties made it the possession of Emperors, while, in the West it has a counterpart in the mandrake.
The opening dance of The Mermaid Suite, starts with the woodwind, introduces a delicately pointed melody for the Dance of Ginseng. This is followed by a lightly scored Coral Dance, with the underlying suggestion of rippling water, against which the melody is set.
The Dance of the Seaweed brings a more gracious evocation of the swirl of the plant in eddying waters, a characteristic motif again heard against the flowing background figuration. The music fades away into the distance, as trombones play off-stage, and the strings whisper their final chord.
A lively Straw Hats Flower Dance follows, with a rhythmically accompanied flute melody, developing in complexity, the typically Chinese percussion providing vigorous cheerfulness.
The Suite ends with a dance for two dozen mermaids and the inevitable happy ending in a Wedding Dance, the former dominated initially by an oboe theme, and the latter introduced with a soft drum roll, but bringing a scene of typically energetic jollity.
Harvest Scenes (Symphonic Suite)
Qu Wei was born in 1917 and studied in Shanghai. He spent some years teaching at Yian and later in Harbin, before returning to work in Shanghai, where he became resident composer with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra. His compositions include Heroes’ Monument, and he shares responsibility for The White-haired Girl, one of the small number of permitted Revolutionary Operas.
Harvest Scenes, sometimes referred to as Village Suite, is a typically straightforward composition, showing episodes in the regular life of the countryside. The opening Prelude is vigorous, leading to a gentler clarinet solo. The movement makes use of almost traditional Chinese percussion to mark climaxes.
Mountain Song opens with a horn solo, and the pastoral mood is further established by the flute. This section of the work is appropriately dominated by wind and harp, in what is almost a landscape in sound.
The folk-song that follows, Pushing the Mountain Cart, is introduced by a flute solo over a repeated pattern for the clarinets, expressing the movement of the cart.
Lotus Lantern offers another element in the celebration of the harvest, although, of course, there are many times of harvest in China, where double-cropping is possible. The music starts in a quieter mood, with an opening oboe solo, and forms a prelude to the final energetic Epilogue, with its vigorous dance rhythms.
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