About this Recording
8.225828 - DU, Mingxin: Symphony, "The Great Wall" / Festival Overture (Hong Kong Philharmonic, Kenneth Jean)
English  Chinese 

Festival Overture

Festival Overture is in the form of a sonata without development. The whole piece is imbued with a jubilant festive atmosphere. The primary theme played by the brass highlights the optimism and vigour of the overture. Against the dynamic background, the secondary theme on the bassoon displays the lyricism of the festive dance. The theme is then successively repeated in the strings and brass. Gradually the music becomes more and more excited and lead to a climax in the recapitulation of the primary theme. The melody in the coda is forceful, serving to confirm the mood of the whole piece.

Great Wall Symphony

Appearance – Dominating the World
Sentiment – Experiencing Eternal Vicissitudes
Spirit – Locking the Mountains
Soul – Restoring the Prestige

The Great Wall is one of the most famous structures in the world. It was first recorded in the seventh century B.C. in Zuo Zhuan, a famous historical work by Zuo Qiuming. After the Qin extinguished the other six competitive kingdoms and established a unified Empire, it managed to join the great walls which had been built separately on the north borders of the former kingdoms Qin, Zhao and Yan. From the Han Dynasty to the Sui Dynasty, additional work was done on the north border with the nomadic nationalities. Especially in the Ming Dynasty, in order to defend against the invasion by the foreign nationalities such as the Tartars, as many as eighteen projects were carried out from the reign of Emperor Hongwu to that of Emperor Wanli. The Great Wall stretches 6,700 kilometres from the west end Jiayuguan Pass to the east end Shanhaiguan Pass, the greater part of which has so far remained undamaged.

With this great creation of the Chinese nation as his subject matter, the composer Du Mingxin has written a large-scale orchestral piece. The symphony describes the past and the present of the Great Wall in the four categories of Chinese traditional aesthetics: appearance, sentiment, spirit and soul. Succinct, simple, clear and fluent in musical idiom, the music expresses the historical consciousness of the Chinese people and their daring ambition to rejuvenate China and face the future.

Appearance – Dominating the World

The low and slow introduction appears on the kettledrums and the lower strings and is then transferred timbrally to the woodwind and the brass, which leads to a minor climax and directly to the principal theme on the strings open, graceful and extended, this theme brings subtle connotations for the listener. It sounds like footsteps following the endless path of the Great Wall.

After the timbral variation through response among the woodwind, the woodwind and strings, the cello and the woodwind, and after the progressive deepening of the musical idea, there appears a forceful marching rhythm resembling beats on the bass drum. Then in the woodwind sparkles the intense and resolute secondary theme, which is passed on to the strings.

After various alternations, contrasts and development of the two themes, the music drives to a new climax. At this very moment, the primary appears again and is developed very considerably. After that there is a considerable decrescendo. With the pedal in the strings and the oboe in contrast, the movement comes to a soft end.

Sentiment – Experiencing Eternal Vicissitudes

This is a lyrical movement. The sound of the horn, a rising phrase in the strings and three loud beats on the timpani lead to the widely known tune of The Great Wall Ballad on the strings. This is then passed on successively to the cellos, the violins, the woodwind and the cellos. The plaintive melody sounds like meditation and recollection of the long years that have passed. The music following this is even more desolate. In the middle section, the pizzicato in the strings, as well as the deep chant of the cello and the lonely wail of the flute, is clouded in an atmosphere of tragedy, which is associated with the disaster of war, the oppression and the misery the people suffered over long years. Following this is the recapitulation of the first section. The melody of The Great Wall Ballad is successively passed to the strings, the flute and the cellos. Finally the movement comes to a gentle conclusion.

Spirit – Locking the Mountains

Full of optimism and brightness, the fast third movement forms a sharp contrast with the previous tragic movement. Beginning with an impulsive rhythm like that of perpetuum mobile, the music is characteristic of an irresistible initiative. After a cantabile episode in the strings, the principal theme of the first movement appears suddenly. Following this is the “singing" of the melody of The Great Wall Ballad in the oboe and the strings. Its original sorrow, however, has given way to optimism and magnificence. Finally the fast lively music is recapitulated in an even more forceful and profound manner until the whole movement abruptly comes to an end.

Soul – Restoring the Prestige

The ascending strings usher in the exposition with the principal theme of the first movement. The dynamic rhythm sounds like marching drum-beats, while the fast phrases in the strings show a vigorous spirit. After a certain course of development, the climax appears. After an animated episode, the strings, the woodwind and brass are interwoven together, the music changing from tense to relaxed and then to tense again. Then there appears a marching-tune in a strong national style and a festive atmosphere which is highlighted by the percussion. Finally, the first theme is recapitulated, symbolizing the loftiness, greatness and eternal duration with spirit of the Great Wall.


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