About this Recording
82097 - XU: Memories of the Past at Jinling

Night Moor at Maple Bridge

Night Moor at Maple Bridge is a tone poem based on a poem of the same title. The famous poem by Zhang Ji, a poet in the Tang Dynasty, is as follows:

Crows are cawing at frosty moonset,

The lights are blinking on the fishing boats.

Watching the maples on the river bank,

I have lost sleep because of distress.

Outside the city of Suzhou,

Resounds a midnight knell.

It is Cold Hill Monastery,

Towards our boat, tolling its bell.

Plum Garden in Snow

Snow is falling silently. The whole world has turned silvery white. In the bitterly cold winter day, the plum trees in the Plum Garden have already bloomed quietly. In the beginning, in high register, the music mildly sways on muted violins. In the dialogue between the carillon and the arpeggios of the harp, the listener enters into a tranquil world of snow. Following this, the cello plays a simple, heartfelt theme, a hymn to the spirit of the plum blossom, which, as flawless as jade, blooms despite the cold snow. After a section of grimmer music, the graceful theme is recapitulated, with the whole orchestra adding its voice. The music drives forward gradually to an exciting climax, after which there is a return to the atmosphere of the beginning. The snowflakes are still falling. In the silvery world, the plum blossom in the Plum Garden silently emits its fragrance. Composed in January 1979, the fantasy overture Plum Garden in Snow was one of the prize winners at the All-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal in 1981.

Memories of the Past at Jinling

Memories of the Past at Jinling is a tone poem commissioned by the well-known Japanese conductor and composer Sotoyama or the thousand-musician concert of Japanese-Chinese friendship in Nagoya in January 1995, Nanjing was in ancient times known as Jingling, a city that, from 229 A.D., was the successive capital of six dynasties, including the Eastern Wu and Eastern Jin, and the Southern Dynasties Song, Qi, Liang and Chen. After the Sui Dynasty had exterminated the Chen, the metropolis of magnificent palaces and prosperous commercial districts was completely destroyed. From the Tang Dynasty (618-907) onwards, many famous poets, inspired by the historical vicissitudes of the city, wrote volumes of poems, mostly under the title of Memories of the Past at Jinling. The tone poem is based on the implied meaning of three of such poems, Memories of the Past at Jinling to the tune of Fragrance of Laurel Branch by Wang Anshi (1021-1086), a great politician of the Song Dynasty, and Memories of the Past at Jinling to the tune of The River All Red and Mounting the Gate Tower of the City Wall of Jingling to the tune of Charm of a Maiden Singer, both by Sadura (about 1300-?), a famous poet of the Yuan Dynasty, and based on the composer’s own experience of his thirty-year residence in Nanjing. The music begins with a strong, deep sustained note that gradually grows in intensity. Soon a strong resounding chord is heard from the whole orchestra. This reflects the lines:

Searching for the dominant terrain of the six dynasties,

I can only see the wall-like green mountains.

All the composer’s memories of the past at Jingling start from the wall-like green mountain by the Yangtze River. After this the music leads into memories of the past, the mysterious, luxurious mansions and the magnificent grand palaces of the six dynasties, the gentle melody on the plucked pipa, the Chinese lute, and the jubilant song and dance in the royal palace. Then the music depicts the misery and ferocity of the historic wars between the north and the south, as described in the lines:

The army flags hid the sun;

The tall masts touched the clouds;

The many bones of the dead look like white snow. The music lays stress on the historical tragedy:

The enemy army was attacking the palace,

While the emperor sported happily with his favourite concubine,

Such tragedy has recurred endlessly.

When the music calms down, the pipa, lonely and miserable, joins in once again:

Looking back the past,

I am in great sadness.

Thinking of the extinct dynasties,

I can only see relics of history.

The wild mist palls over the lading weeds,

While the crows fly in tumult in the setting sun.

While the crows fly in tumult in the setting sun.

In the last passage of the piece, a long, beautiful and tender melody is played by the woodwind and strings. The music dismisses the feeling that prevailed al the end of the poems. Based on the first half of Wang Anshi’s poem:

I climb the mountain by the river and strain my sight.

It is late autumn in the ancient capital,

The leaves of trees start to turn yellow and fall.

The thousand-mile river looks as clear and smooth as silk

Against the clusters of green peaks,

and on the composer’s personal experience, the music fully conveys the composer’s boundless love and nostalgia for the magnificence of Jinling, the ancient capital.

A Tone Picture of Border Village

Composed in March 1986, A Tone Picture of Border Village, depicts the magnificent border area of South-West China and the grand spectacle of song and dance at the festivity of the ethnic minorities, and expresses the composer’s appreciation and his deep affection for all these.

Erquan Spring Reflecting the Moon

Erquan Spring Reflecting the Moon was originally the work of Hua Yanjun, a blind musician, and is one of the best traditional pieces in the literature of the erhu, the Chinese two-string fiddle. In this piece the blind musician reveals his life full of frustrations and bitterness. The music is sad and profoundly touching. Although the piece has often been arranged for orchestra for performance and recording, previous versions are all for small ensembles. The present arrangement by Xu Zhenmin is elaborate for full orchestra. Even more exquisitely profound in its intensity, the music reveals the fuller implications of the original in an even more profound and vivid manner.

Xu Zhcnmin

Born in Yantai, in Shandong, in 1934, Xu Zhenmin entered the Composition Department of the China Central Conservatory in 1952 and graduated there in 1957. He is now a professor of composition at the Conservatory.

Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most famous performing ensembles in China. It was established in 1952 as the East China Music Troupe. The first Director was He Luting, a well-known composer, followed by Huang Yijun and Situ Han. The orchestra is now conducted by Cao Peng. In the past forty years, the orchestra has given over three thousand concerts, including special concerts for individual composers and musicians, and collaborated with singers and soloists from all over the world. Apart from giving concerts, the orchestra often makes recordings for radio stations, television stations and film studios, as well as for recordings for world-wide release.

Cao Peng

Cao Peng is one of the most distinguished conductors in China. He was born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu in 1925. In 1946, he entered the Arts Department of Shandong University. In 1950 he was principal conductor of both the Shanghai Film Studio Orchestra and the Beijing Film Studio Orchestra. In 1955, he went to the Russia to study at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory under the celebrated conductor Leo Ginsberg. Cao Peng was appointed resident conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra after his return in 1961. He is now artistic director and principal conductor of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, artistic director of the Marco Polo Symphony Orchestra, 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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