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82075 - Mu Guiying Taking Command

MU GUIYING TAKING COMMAND by China Central Philharmonic Composition Group

Mu Guiying is a heroine of ancient Chinese legend. In the Northern Song Dynasty, the north border area of China was constantly invaded by the Khitans (Liao) from the north. Yang Jiye, a famous general, made great contributions to the resistance against the Khitan invasion and finally died a heroic death. Later his deeds were embellished in folk-story-telling and opera, and gradually developed into the legend of Generals of the Yangs with a complicated plot. His personal story became that of several generations of his family. In the legend, Mu Guiying was a grand-daughter-in-Iaw of Yang Jiye, who once bravely joined the fighting against the Khitans when she was young. The story of Mu Guiying Taking Command tells about another invasion by the Khitans. Though the Song emperor intended to appoint Mu Guiying, who had been released from military service twenty years before, as commander against the Khitan troops, she was unwilling to accept the appointment out of her resentment against the imperial court’s mean and unfair treatment of the Yangs. Under the persuasion of Grandma She, Yang Jiye’s widow, Mu finally boldly accepted the appointment and commanded the Song troops to the battle against the invaders. During his later years, Mei Lanfang, China’s distinguished maestro of Beijing opera, once adapted the Henan opera Mu Guiying Taking Command as a Beijing opera of the same title, which has been enjoying wide popularity. It is on the music of Beijing opera that the present symphonic poem is based.

The symphonic poem consists of four movements in line with the development of the plot:

MOVEMENT 1: Reminiscence at Tianbo Mansion

Tianbo Mansion was the residence of the Yangs. The music expresses the retired Mu Guiying’s reminiscences of her military career when she was young.

MOVEMENT 2: Khitan Invasion

The music depicts the savagery and cruelty of the Khitan invaders and the misery of the Chinese people under the heel of the invaders and their hatred of the enemy.

MOVEMENT 3: Taking Command

The music describes Mu Guiying’s psychological struggle after her appointment. She sighed over the great sacrifice the Yang family had made for the defence of the motherland. Meanwhile, she also resented the meanness and unfairness of the imperial government to her family. Seeing the country was in danger of being extinguished by the aggressors, however, she finally decided to accept the appointment.

MOVEMENT 4: Expedition

Valiant and heroic, Mu Guiying commanded the great and powerful troops in the battle against the invaders.


Yellow Crane Mansion is a symphonic poem composed by Chen Peixun as the first movement of Heroic Poetry, a symphonic poem based on Mao Zedong’s poems. The music begins with a depiction of the beautiful sights of the mountains and rivers of the motherland. The mood is in a turmoil just like turbulent rivers, which indicates the coming of a counter-revolutionary storm and displays the furious indignation of the people rising against the enemy. Following this is the solemn and stirring string passage which expresses the people’s memory of the revolutionary martyrs. The middle part of the piece is bright and optimistic. The progressive rise in mood symbolizes the irresistible torrent of the revolution. The music ends with the description of the radiant and enchanting spring dusk scene. The distant bells to the tune of The East Is Red, a widely popular revolutionary folk-song, foretells the rebirth of the revolution and the splendid future of the motherland.

FANTASY POEM by Liu Dunnan

The Tang Dynasty (618-917) was a brilliant period in the history of the Chinese poetry. During the dynasty numerous poets wrote countless volumes of immortal poems, which have not only served to nurture the literary talent of poets of development of later generations, but also inspired the artistic creation of innumerable painters and composers. It was after the reading of a number of Tang poems that the composer Liu Dunnan made the present Fantasy Poem on the basis of the artistic conception of the poems. The work consists of three movements: Drunk Song on the Battlefietd, Joyful Dance in the Secluded Palace and Bells along the Silk Road.


The Chinese composer Liu Dunnan was born in Sichuan in 1940. In his childhood he studied the trumpet, the violin and the piano. Later he studied composition in the Composition Department of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After graduation, he worked successively with the Anhui Maanshan Culture Centre and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Since 1984 he has been living in the United States. His main works include piano concerto Mountain Forest and the orchestral Fantasy Poem.


A Chinese composer, Chen Peixun was born in Hong Kong in 1921. In 1939 he began to study composition in the Composition Department of the Shanghai School of Music. After graduation he successively held teaching posts at various schools of art in Guangdong, Sichuan, Hubei and Shanghai. After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 he began to work as a professor at the China Central Conservatory of Music. His main works include piano pieces Grocer and Butterflies Flying together, symphonic poem Yellow Crane Mansion and Symphony No. 2 The Rite of Qingming.


The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra is among the most distinguished ensembles of its kind in China. It was established in 1952 as the East China Music Troupe, originally under the direction of the well-known composer He Luting, who was followed by Huang Yijun and Situ Han. The present artistic director is Cao Peng. Over the course of some fifty years the orchestra has given over three thousand concerts, in addition to its work in broadcasting, television and film studios and its many recordings for international release.


One of the most distinguished conductors in China, Cao Peng was born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu, in 1925. In 1946 he entered the Arts Department of Shandong University and in 1950 was appointed principal conductor of both the Shanghai Film Studio Orchestra and the Beijing Film Studio Orchestra. In 1955 he moved to the then Soviet Union, entering the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory to study under the conductor Leo Ginsburg. After his return to China in 1961 Cao Peng was appointed resident conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and is now artistic director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as serving as music advisor and resident conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and music director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Chamber Orchestra.

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