About this Recording
82078 - CHEN / HE: Butterfly Lovers Zheng Concerto (The) / Eternal Regret of Lin'An


Composed by He Zhanhao

In the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties, the music and dance from Qiuci, an ancient city state that once existed around the present Kuche, Xinjiang, in northwest China, won wide popularity in the central-region of China and had a profound influence on the development of the music and dance of the Han people. The beautiful Huteng dance is a genre of the Qiuci dance. It was developed on the basis of the introduction of the dance techniques of north India and Persia. Unfortunately, the music has been lost. With Persian and Oriental tunes as the main musical material, the present Huteng Dance is based on the composer’s profound study of a vast amount of historical data. Though it was originally composed as part of the score of the drama The Qin King Li Shimin, owing to its beautiful melody and integral structure, it has frequently been performed as an independent concert piece.


Composed by He Zhanhao

The Yili is a river flowing through the north area of Xinjiang.With Xinjiang folk-songs as the material, By the Yili River is a set of variations on a single theme. Somewhat like a rondo, its first and third parts are descriptions of a celebrators’ party. Lyrical and beautiful, the central part depicts a young couple in love, meeting by the Yili River and strollings by its banks.


Composed by He Zhanhao and Wang Lingkang

Horse racing is part of the custom of some Chinese minority peoples. The first part of Festive Horse Race depicts the people riding happily on horseback to the site of the horse race festival. The second part is a picture of the horse racers from different directions competing keenly for the prize.


Arranged by He Zhanhao

Lin’an (modern Hangzhou) was China’s capital in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The zhongruan concerto Eternal Regret of Lin’an is based on the tragedy of Yue Fei (1103-1142), a great national hero and famous general, who was put into prison in Lin’an and murdered there by the capitulationist officials headed by Qin Gui who favoured surrender because of his keeping up resistance against the invasion of the Nuzhens, a tribe from the north. The concerto for the zhongruan, a Chinese plucked instrument, Eternal Regret of Lin’an was composed by He Zhanhao using the ancient tune The River All Red as the basic musical material and by reference to another zhong ruan concerto The River All Red by Lin Liangji. The music expresses the grief and indignation of Yue Fei in prison.

This work won the Prize of Composition at the 14th Shanghai Spring Music Festival in 1991.


Original by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang arranged by He Zhanhao

The legend of the Butterfly Lovers is well known throughout China. Zhu Yingtai, a talented girl had disguised herself as a man and was on her way to Hangzhou for the sake of schooling, met Liang Shanbo, a poor scholar who was also going to Hangzhou to study. They soon found much in common and swore regarding each other as blood brothers. In the three years’ study together, they developed deep friendship. Later Zhu Yingtai was urged by her father to go back home. By then she had fallen in love with Liang, but she was shy to express her love directly to him. On the eve of departure, when saying good-bye to the teacher’s wife, Zhu told her that she was really a girl and asked her to act as a matchmaker between her and Liang. Liang was reluctant to say good-bye to Zhu and walked eighteen miles to send her. On the way, Zhu Yingtai repeatedly made use of the scenery they saw as metaphors to hint to Liang Shanbo that she was actually a girl. She also implicitly revealed again and again her desire to marry him, but the simple Liang Shanbo did not take her hint. At parting the helpless Zhu could do nothing else but offer the pretext that she had a younger sister, whom she was willing to make his wife. She urged him again and again to go to her home as soon as possible to marry her younger sister. It was only after Liang returned to the school that he knows about the truth from the teacher’s wife. The excited Liang arranged to go Zhu’s home. In female dress, Zhu met him in the study room upstairs. She was very sad to tell him that her father had betrothed her to Ma Wencai, a young man from a rich family. Liang was upset and finally left sorrowfully. Soon after he died of depression. On the day of Zhu’s wedding, when the wedding procession from Zhu’s to Ma’s house passed by Liang’s grave, Zhu insisted on getting down from the bridal sedan and mourning by Liang’s grave. At that time a thunderstorm began. In the heavy rain, Liang’s grave suddenly cracked. Zhu immediately threw herself into the crack, then the grave closed again. After the storm, there appeared a colourful rainbow across the bright sky. Among the flowers, a couple of butterflies fluttered. It was said that there were the souls of the immortal lovers that had turned into butterflies. Based on the legend, there have been various regional operas staged.

In the early 1950s, the filming of the Shaoxing opera The Butterfly Lovers made the legend even more widely known. It was on the basis of the melody of the Shaoxing opera that He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, both young students of Shanghai Conservatory of Music, composed a violin concerto in 1959. Though it was composed with western composition techniques, the concerto is infused with rich Chinese national colour. Since its appearance, it has not only achieved wide popularity in China but become the best-known modern Chinese orchestral piece abroad. Thirty years later, He Zhanhao, one of the composers of the violin concerto, arranged it as a concerto for the zheng, an ancient Chinese plucked stringed instrument, and orchestra.

This single movement concerto is in sonata form. The exposition, the development and the recapitulation respectively depict the three stages of the dramatic conflict - Falling in love, Resisting Marriage and Turning into Butterflies.

The Exposition: Falling in Love

In the beginning, against the mild strings, the piano plays the pretty melody depicting the beautiful spring sights of Jiangnan. Accompanied by delicate arpeggios, the solo zheng plays the poetic love theme. Then a dialogue between the zheng and the cello depicts Zhu and Liang making acquaintance with each other. The lively rondo describes the intimate friendship between Zhu and Liang during three years’ study together. When the music slows down, the moving melody exquisitely portrays their reluctance to say good-bye to each other when parting.

The Development: Resisting Forced Marriage

The sombre ominous music is the symbol of harsh feudal power. On the piano is played the theme of Zhu’s father compelling her to accept the forced marriage. The zheng first expresses Zhu’s sorrow in a free rhythm, then, with strongly syncopated chords, plays the theme of Zhu resisting the marriage. This theme is derived from these secondary themes. It alternates with Zhu’s father’s theme, developing the unswerving image of Zhu, who was faithful to her love for Liang. The touchingly grievous dialogue between the zheng and the cello profoundly pictures the scene of Zhu’s tragic meeting with Liang in the study room upstairs. Then the music turns to describe Liang’s death, Zhu’s weeping in front of Liang’s grave and the grave’s cracking. With the last phrase on the zheng depicting Zhu’s jumping into the grave, the music reaches its climax.

Recapitulation: Turning into Butterflies

The theme of love between Liang and Zhu is recapitulated. Liang and Zhu’s souls have turned into a couple of colourful butterflies fluttering together among the flowers. They would never be separated, and their faithful love has been praised by people from generation to generation.


A native of Zhuji, Zhejiang, He Zhanhao was born in 1933. He once worked with the orchestra of the Zhejiang Shaoxing Opera Troupe. Later he entered the Shanghai conservatory of Music to take a refresher course in the violin. He formed with several classmates, an experimental group of national school of the violin. The violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers was made as a result of their experiments. After graduation, he transferred to the Composition Department and began to study composition under Ding Shande. In addition to The Butterfly Lovers, his important works include string quartet Martyr’s Diary, the symphonic poem Longhua Pagoda and others.

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