About this Recording
82079 - LI, H.: Spring Festival Suite


Orchestral Music by Li Huanzhi

Symphony No. 1: Heavenly Wind and Sea Waves

Li Huanzhi’s First Symphony was composed between 1958 and 1960 as an expression of the composer’s deep affection for his ancestral home, Egret Island, in Xiamen, Fujian. The conception was of the winds of the heavens stirring the surge of the waves, represented through the use of folk-tunes from the region as characteristic musical material.

In the first movement, The Call of the Sea, the introduction is set against the background of the sea. From the bright blue sky above a melody floats down, suggesting the nanqu (south melodies) folk-music popular in the south of Fujian and in Taiwan. The main part of the movement is structured as modified sonata form, with primary section, secondary section, development and recapitulation. In the coda the melody of the introduction is echoed and the movement ends with the faint sound of xiaojiaoluo (small shouting gong) from South Fujian folk-music.

The second movement, Fine Horses and Young Boys, in scherzo style, uses the South Fujian nanqu folk-melody Eight Fine Horses. The material associated with the horses and that with the image of boys singing of the spring are used in alternation.

The third movement, The Feeling of Plum Blossom, is a lyrical slow movement, with the well-known Plum Blossom melody of nanqu used to express the depth of the composer's emotions.

In the final movement, Song of Praise, the thematic material of the earlier movements is brought together in praise of the composer’s home-town in its new guise.

Spring Festival Suite

The Spring Festival is an important date in the Chinese calendar. After the New Yangge (Seedling Folk-Dance) Movement in Yanan in 1943, it became a festival during which artists in Yanan joined with the people in singing and dancing, an occasion for reinforcing revolutionary morale by the meeting together of Communist Party and government officials, soldiers and civilians. Spring Festival Suite was composed in 1955 and 1956, a crystalization of the composer’s own experience of the Spring Festival in Yanan. In four movements, the suite shows the people in this centre of the revolution, celebrating the Festival and greeting each other in brotherly unity.

The first movement, Overture, depicts the energetic scenes of the yangge dance, with the beating of drums and sounding of gongs. The movement is in ternary form. The first section consists of two North Shaanxi pieces for suona (Chinese reed instrument), while the moderato central section takes a melody from North Shaanxi lingchang yangge diao (seedling dance tune with leading singing), first heard on the oboe, then repeated by the cello, before the trumpet leads back to the first section.

The second movement, Love Song, marked Andante cantabile, is a lyrical episode in the Spring Festival. In the introduction the English hom presents the theme of a North Shaanxi love-song, suggesting young lovers walking together by the Yan River in the moonlight. The theme is repeated six times, as the two express their love for each other. The music then returns to the theme in the zhi mode (a Chinese mode ending on the note G), played as a dialogue between violin and cello, before a transition to the music of the introduction.

Pange (Dialogue Song), the third movement, is a waltz in rondo form. The principal theme, representing the fraternal unity shown in the festival, and the two subsidiary themes are all derived from North Shaanxi lingchang yangge diao. Sometimes they give the idea of intimate talk between friends, sometimes of banter between young and old. The composer here combines traditional elements with modern dance music, reflecting in an original way the social events taking place.

The suite ends with Lantern Show, marked Allegro con brio and in ternary form. The first section is based on the melody Grand Evolution, a North Shaanxi suona piece, vigorous music that reflects, in performance, the breath-control in sustaining a melody in traditional North Shaanxi suona performance. The central section uses the folk-tunes Picking Pumpkins and the traditional folk-dance Sailing Land Boats, woven together, depicting yangge performance. The return of the first section brings the sound of yangge drums and gongs.

Li Huanzhi

A prominent Chinese composer, Li Huanzhi was born in Hong Kong in 1919, although his ancestral home is in Jinjiang, Fujian. In 1936 he entered the Shanghai School of Music and studied composition under Xiao Youmei. Alter the outbreak of the war of resistance against Japanese aggression he was engaged in the composition of propaganda songs against Japan and of art songs, in Xiamen and Hong Kong. In 1938 he studied in the Music Department of the Luxun Institute of Arts in Yanan and later became a teacher at the Institute. Meanwhile he continued to compose and conduct choirs, editing the periodical National Music. Between 1946 and 1949 he served as Dean of the Music Department of the Arts and Literature Institute of North China United University and since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 has played an active part in musical life. He served in succession in leading posts in the Musical Troupe of the China Central Conservatory, the China Central Song and Dance Ensemble and the China Central National Music Ensemble and was appointed as the Chairman of the China Musicians’ Association for many years. Over a period of some fifty years he has written many pieces, including songs such as March of the Foundation of a New Democratic Country, March of the Youth of New China and Socialism is Good. His principal compositions include the orchestral suite Spring Festival, Symphony No. 1, Su Wu and Hujia (traditional Chinese reed instrument) Chant for guqin (Chinese seven-string zither) and chorus, a concerto for the zheng (a 21 or 25-stringed zither) Miluo River Fantasia, called alter the river in which the famous statesman and poet Qu Yuan drowned himself in despair at defeat in 258 B.C., the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, and a one-act opera, Autumn in a Foreign Country. He has also written theoretical works, A Course of Composition, Random Notes on Music Composition, derived from some three hundred earlier essays, On the Art of Musical Composition and a number of other works.

Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the best known such organizations in China. It was established in 1962 as the East China Music Troupe, directed by the well-known composer He Luting, who was followed by Huang Yijun and Situ Han. The present artistic director is the well-known conductor Cao Peng. In the past forty years the orchestra has given more than three thousand concerts, often in collaboration with leading international performers. The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra frequently appears in broadcasts and television performances, and in film and recording studios.

Cao Peng

Cao Peng is one of the most distinguished conductors in China. He was born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu, in 1925, and in 1946 entered the Arts Department of Shandong University. In 1950 he became principal conductor of both the Shanghai Film Studio Orchestra and the Beijing Film Studio Orchestra and in 1955 went to Moscow, where he studied at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory under Leo Ginsburg. After his return in 1961 he became resident conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and is now artistic director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, and music adviser and resident conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as music director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Chamber Orchestra.

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