About this Recording
8.225833 - CHEN, Gang / HE, Zhanhao: Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto (The) / Popular Chinese Violin Pieces (Takako Nishizaki, Kektjiang Lim, Yit Kin Seow)
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Popular Chinese Violin Pieces


The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto
He Zhanhao and Chen Gang

The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1958 by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory and was first performed in May the following year. Musically the concerto is a synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, although the melodies and overall style are adapted from traditional Chinese Opera. The solo violin is used with a technique that recalls the playing technique of erhu, the Chinese two-string fiddle. It is a one-movement programmatic concerto, with three sections that correspond to the three phases of the story – Falling in Love, Refusing to Marry and Metamorphosis.

The narrative, derived from Chinese folk-lore, tells the story of the lovers Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The two had been studying together, with Zhu Yingtai disguised as a boy, her identity unknown to her friend Liang Shanbo. Their period of study together and friendship is a happy one, which comes to an end when Zhu Yingtai is compelled to return home, and the couple part at a pavilion, eighteen miles from the city. This forms the exposition of a tripartite sonata-form movement.

In the central section, the formal development, Zhu Yingtai now defies her father, who has arranged a marriage for her. Liang Shanbo decides to visit Zhu Yingtai and only now finds out that she is a girl and about to be married. There is a tender duet between the solo violin and cello, now that Liang Shanbo realises the nature of his affection for his former companion. Liang Shanbo dies, the victim of despair, and Zhu Yingtai, on the way to her wedding, stops at her lover’s tomb and leaps into it. The tomb bursts open and at the sound of the gong the music reaches a climax.

In the final section of the concerto, the recapitulation, the love theme reappears and Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai emerge from the tomb as a pair of butterflies, flying together, never again to be parted.

Song of the Five-Fingers Mountain
Arranged by Chen Jian

Song of the Five-Fingers Mountain is a typically charming folk-song arrangement. Its opening Andante is matched by an Allegro vivo section which makes the usual contrast.

The melody, with its five opening notes to match the title, is suggested first by the piano, followed by the violin using the C string. The second part of the melody is extended, melismatically, making characteristic use of the pentatonic scale, continued by the piano as the violin plays a trill.

The opening melody is repeated an octave higher, embellished and then taken still higher before the faster section. Now in duple time, it begins with a simple piano accompaniment. The original melody reappears briefly, to be soon superseded by the Allegro which concludes the piece.

Singing the Night among Fishing Boats
Arranged by Li Guoquan

In Singing the Night among Fishing Boats, the piano opens with the usual pentatonic sequence, followed by a violin arpeggio using the same scale. A slightly more extended cadenza leads to the melody itself, at first on the piano, then on the violin. This is in contrast to the following section which has a somewhat weightier accompaniment, and boasts a more expressive melody, a passage concluding in violin harmonics.

The piece concludes with an Allegro Molto section, all in the simplest harmonies and textures. For the last eight bars there is a return to the opening melody, and then dying away to a whisper.

Qin Yongcheng

Although Romance is an original composition, it retains the elements of the traditional folk-song or folk-dance. The opening melody, played by the violin on a D string, is pentatonic, at least in its outline, although the harmonies employed by the piano suggest otherwise.

A slightly faster middle section moves us apparently into the tonic major, as if this were a purely diatonic setting. The marked rhythm brings, initially, another mood, and ended by a violin cadenza.

In conclusion the first melody returns with a softly arpeggiated accompaniment.

Spring in Xinjiang
Ma Yiaoxian, Li Zhonghan

Like Chinese painting, Chinese music is, mostly typically, representational. Spring in Xinjiang illustrates the coming of the warm weather in the Northern areas of Chinese Turkestan.

The piece begins with a lively dance movement in a characteristic rhythm, briefly broken to introduce a new figure.

A change of key and tempo bring us a solider melody, then played pizzicato by the violin, and later repeated in more strident double-stopping. The section ends with a relatively elaborate cadenza which leads back to the opening theme.

Jin Yanping

A fiercely repeated pizzicato chord starts the dance, followed by the violin melody itself, pentatonic at least in its outline. The material is subjected to double-stopping and elevation to a greater height before the contrasting Meno Mosso, a more expressive melody played by the violin on the G string, before its grander repetition.

The opening pizzicato chords return, followed by the melody of the first section which brings the piece to an end.

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