About this Recording
8.225831 - DING, Shande: Long March Symphony (Hong Kong Philharmonic, Yoshikazu Fukumura)
English  Chinese 

Ding Shande
The Long March Symphony: Embarking on the Road • Red Army, the Beloved of the Various Tribes • Rush Capture of the Lu Ting Bridge • Crossing Snow Mountains and Grassland • Triumphant Junction


Ding Shande started writing the Long March Symphony in 1959, and completed the work in 1962, when it was first performed in Shanghai. The composer himself visited the route of the great march and spoke with soldiers who had taken part in it.

The event celebrated took place in the years 1934 and 1935, when the Red Army, some 300,000 strong, broke through the Nationalist blockade, and, with great heroism, marched North, from Hunan and Kiangsi to Shensi, just South of the Great Wall, surmounting incredible hardships on the way. 20,000 reached their destination.

The first movement, in sombre mood, opens with a slow introduction by bass clarinet, cellos and double basses, answered by the rest of the woodwind and strings. A muted trumpet leads to the first subject, a march, which gradually reaches a climax. A calmer mood is established by the violins, followed by two folk tunes. The development section of this movement is marked by quick string passages with the woodwind, set against the solemn chords of the brass. Thereafter the material is developed contrapuntally. A forceful orchestral tutti opens the recapitulation section, where first and second subjects are combined in a single idea. The movement ends with a representation of the peasants seeing the Red Army off on its long way.

Clarinet, cor anglais and oboe play the slow introduction of the second movement, a Yunann folk melody. Then comes the Rondo theme of the movement, using a dance-melody from the people of Yao. The first two subsidiary sections have melodies also drawn from Yunnan. The climax, however, comes in the third of these episodes, which uses melodies from the Cheng and Miao tribes. The end of this section suggests the joy of the Red Army, as soldiers and people mingle in the dance.

The third movement is in the form of a scherzo and has a thematic and organizational unity in contrast with the variety of melodic material of the preceding movement. Through the scherzo form the bravery and swift action of the Red Army is seen. A lively march-like theme played by the strings is immediately developed by imitation technique. The first subsidiary section has syncopated chords leading to a calmer part, with a series of chromatic chords played by wind instruments in the lower register. The secondary subsidiary section is more agitated than the first. The tune played by the bass instruments represents the tolerance and hope of the Red Army, while imitative techniques are used to suggest the atmosphere of war. After the climax the triumphal march-like tune reappears.

The fourth movement describes the snowy mountains and grassland through which the army had to pass, emphasising the beauty rather than the terror of those regions. This ternary movement starts with octaves and fifths from the strings, played sul ponticello, and offering a pastoral idyll. This is interspersed with fragments of short tunes played by the woodwind. String harmonics convey the feeling of icy coldness. In the first section the bassoon plays a slow march tune, answered by muted trumpets. The key then ascends, chromatically, from F minor, through F# minor to G minor. The section is concluded by an orchestral tutti. The middle section of the movement is opened by the French horn and trombone playing a short, formal melody. The climax is marked by a series of syncopated chords, then the atmosphere of the calm introduction returns. The final section is introduced by a solo violin, which plays a Cheong folk-tune of wide range, followed by a melody on the bassoon and cor anglais. Peace returns, after a short development.

The Finale, expressing the joy of victory, is in sonata form, although there is no formal development section. There is an introduction consisting of a rapid string passage, accompanied by the side drum. The thematic material is drawn from the slow march of the fourth movement. A Shensi revolutionary tune forms the first subject of the main body of the movement, transforming itself into a dance tune. The following second subject is also derived from Shensi folk material. In a subsidiary section a graceful song of praise, again based on a Shensi melody, is played by the violin, with harp and piano accompaniment. The second section is of great serenity, with the melody lying in the lower strings. A further melody is introduced from Shenpei. In the recapitulation the main section reappears in a different key, but preserving the same atmosphere. When the subsidiary section is reintroduced the second melody is replaced by the slow introduction to the first movement. The Finale ends with the first theme of the subsidiary section, played by all the brass, with a triplet accompaniment from strings and woodwind.

The work as a whole is, in common with most recent Chinese music of the kind, programmatic, romanticising an event considered of the greatest importance in the mythology of modern China.

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