About this Recording
82087 - LIU, D.: Mountain Forest / WANG, M.: Haixia Suite / HUO, C.: Bengbeng Suite

Mountain Forest
Composed in May 1979 and first performed in June the same year, Mountain Forest is a poetic and fantastic piano concerto, with varied exploration of compositional techniques. The concerto is made up of three movements, all seven themes of which are based on fei ge, flying songs, a kind of folk-song popular among the Miao people, an ethnic minority living in South-West China. Although there is an element of chromaticism, the themes are redolent of national colour.

The first movement, Spring in the Mountain Forest, is in sonata form, although actually a scherzo in mood. The music begins with a bright, lyrical introduction, followed by the brisk principal theme and the cantabile secondary theme. The first theme suggests the steps of people running into the mountain forest, while the secondary theme is associated with the beautiful spring scene in the mountain forest. The second movement, Dialogue between the Mountain and the Forest, is in compound ternary form and is the most fantastic one of the concerto with an attractive and tranquil melody characteristic of Miao music. The dialogue between the mountain and the forest concerns the vicissitudes of the past millions of years, the awakening of the mountain forest, the dawn, and the benefits it brings to people in the sunlit land. The third movement, Festival in the Mountain Forest is in sonata-rondo form and is a musical genre painting. The music is jubilant, with striking, lively and characteristic rhythms. The middle section of the ternary exposition depicts a dance scene, in which the boys and girls of the ethnic minorities beating tambourines, play the lusheng (reed-pipe wind instrument used by the Miao and other minorities),and dance happily. The development is a fugato. The theme is lively and rhythmic, while the secondary theme of the first movement is ingeniously adapted as a countersubject. The recapitulation is also in ternary form just like the exposition. In the culminating middle section, however, the introduction of the first movement is used as the material. Before the climax is the cadenza, in which the expressive potential of the piano is brought into full play. The whole piece comes to an end with a sonorous Presto.

In 1981 the concerto won the Excellent Composition Prize at the All-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal.

Haixia Suite
The orchestral suite Haixia is an arrangement from Wang Ming's own film score of the same title. The film tells the story of militiamen on an island in South China, who struggle against invading enemy agents. Haixia is the name of a militia-women team leader, the heroine of the film.

The suite consists of five movements. In the first, Childhood, is a reflection of the heroine's memories of her miserable childhood. The lyrical theme on the gaohu (Chinese two-string fiddle) offers a melancholy recitative. As the fundamental leitmotif running through the whole suite, it plaintively demonstrates the heroine's grief at her childhood. The second movement, Liberation, directly follows the first, depicting the sight of fishermen joyfully celebrating their new freedom. Chinese percussion instruments are used to intensify the mood of jubilation. Netting, the third movement, is derived from Fishing Girls by the Sea, a song the heroine sings in the original film. It expresses the love of the fisher girls for their homeland. The orchestral arrangement not only retains the southern Chinese flavour of the original song, but is even richer in colour. Harvest, the fourth movement, heightens the fishermen's joy at their catch. The ternary movement is made up of two contrasting dances, one hearty and unconstrained, the other lively and rich in colour. In the fifth movement, Victory, the march theme derived from the leitmotif suggests the valiant and heroic bearing of the militia-women, while its beginning and ending enthusiastically extol the unity between the army and the people and their victory over the enemy.

Bengbeng Suite
Bengbeng Suite was completed in the summer of 1958, and given its first performance the following year at a concert by Shenyang Conservatory of Music in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the People's Republic of China. At the Symphonic Music Creation Symposium sponsored by the China Musicians Association in Nanning in May 1961, a recording of it was played and was well received by the audience. Although the People's Music Publishing House decided to publish the score in 1962 and the plate was made for this purpose, for political reasons, including the Arts Rectification Movement and the Cultural Revolution, the score was not published unti11981. The suite has been performed many times in Liaoning Province and other places. In June 1986 it was performed by the Japan Ichikawa Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kenshi Kaneko and was warmly applauded by the audience.

Bengbeng is a genre of folk-song and dance widely popular in North-East China. Before 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, it had different names in different regions, such as duikou xi, shuang wanyi, you changqiang and yangge lianhualuo. After the 1950s it gradually acquired a standard name, errenzhuang (North-East China regional opera). The composer, however, still used the name Bengbeng in order to retain its historical and regional colour.

The suite consists of four movements. The first, Prelude-Huhuqiang, takes its name from one of the ten major set tunes of bengbeng music generally used at the beginning of an aria. It often starts in a free rhythm, before changing to a regular 4/4 time. Accordingly, the composer starts the movement with an unconstrained theme, after which there is a cadenza on the solo violin. Then the main melody appears. The music is open in style, so as to express the bold and uninhibited character of the people in North-East China. The second movement, Dance - Selling Thread, is a lively and jubilant melody of yangdiao, one of the ten minor tunes of bengbeng music. It is so named because it is a well-known melody in bengbeng opera, Yan Qing Selling Thread. For this movement the composer creates an introduction and a coda, and makes the movement a joyful scherzo, to express the wit and optimism of the people in North-East China. Lyric - Dagu Sipingdiao, the third movement, is based on another of the ten minor set tunes of bengbeng music. Dagu is a genre of folk story-telling by means of narration and singing (shuochang). The composer takes the accompaniment music of dagu as the background and heightens the melodiousness, gracefulness and lyricism of the shuochang-style melody to reveal the simple inner world of the people. The fourth movement, Dance, is based on such bengbeng tunes as wuhaihai, chetangzidiao, duikou liushui and liushui baoban. The jubilant music reflects the frank, optimistic and vigorous character of the people of the region.

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