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Naxos Releases Special 50th Anniversary Edition of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto

December 1, 2009


Copies autographed by Takako Nishizaki available upon special request

The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto
Takako Nishizaki, violin
Shanghai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Fan Chengwu, conductor

The Yellow River Piano Concerto
Yin Chengzong, piano
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Adrian Leaper, conductor


DVD (2.220005) & 24K GOLD CD (8.223495G)

In December, on its Marco Polo label Naxos presents a 50th Anniversary box set devoted to The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, performed by violinist Takako Nishizaki, the Shanghai Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Fan Chengwu.

The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1958 by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and was first performed in May the following year. Musically, the concerto is a synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, although the melodies and overall style are adapted from traditional Chinese Opera. The solo violin is used with a technique that recalls the playing technique of Erhu, the Chinese two-string fiddle. It is a one-movement programmatic concerto, with three sections that correspond to the three phases of the story—Falling in Love, Refusing to Marry and Metamorphosis.

The narrative, derived from Chinese folklore, tells the story of the lovers Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The two had been studying together, with Zhu Yingtai disguised as a boy, her identity unknown to her friend Liang Shanbo. Their period of study together and friendship is a happy one, which comes to an end when Zhu Yingtai is compelled to return home, and the couple parts at a pavilion, eighteen miles from the city. This forms the exposition of a tripartite sonata-form movement.

In the central section, the formal development, Zhu Yingtai now defies her father, who has arranged a marriage for her. Liang Shanbo decides to visit Zhu Yingtai and only now finds out that she is a girl and about to be married. There is a tender duet between violin and cello, now Liang Shanbo realizes the nature of his affection for his former companion.

Liang Shanbo dies, the victim of despair, and Zhu Yingtai, on the way to her wedding, stops at her lover’s tomb and leaps into it. The tomb bursts open and at the sound of the gong the music reaches a climax.

In the final section of the concerto, the recapitulation, the love theme reappears and Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai emerge from the tomb as a pair of butterflies, flying together, never more to be parted.

Takako Nishizaki

As a child, Takako Nishizaki studied with her father, Shinji, and with Shinichi Suzuki himself. Her father was active in the early stages of the development of the Suzuki Method and for many years taught at the Matsumoto summer school and organized the Suzuki activities in the Nagoya area after Shinichi Suzuki had moved to Matsumoto. Takako was the first student to complete the now famous Suzuki course and was awarded a teacher’s diploma at the age of nine. She started performing in public at age 5 and, before she was 10, had already played for artists such as Isaac Stern and Sir Malcolm Sargent.

Subsequently, she studied with Broadus Erle and Hideo Saito at Toho Conservatory in Tokyo. In 1962 she went to the United States and studied with Erle at Yale and with Joseph Fuchs at Juilliard. While at Juilliard, Takako Nishizaki was awarded the Fritz Kreisler Scholarship, established by the great violinist himself. Among her sponsors was Alice Tully. Other teachers included Louis Persinger (sonata classes) and Aldo Parisot (chamber music).

Takako Nishizaki has performed as a soloist with many international orchestras, among them the Sydney Symphony, the Melbourne Symphony, the New Zealand Symphony, the Central Philharmonic in Beijing, the Shanghai Symphony, the Polish National Radio Symphony, the Moscow Symphony, the Ukraine State Symphony, the Slovak Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de Lille, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Singapore Symphony, the China Philharmonic and many orchestras in the United States and her native Japan.

Ms Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded and among the best-selling violinists of all time. She is one of only 20 classical artists to have sold more than 1 million copies of a recording, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Her recording of the Butterfly Lovers Concerto sold more than three million copies in the People’s Republic of China and throughout South-East Asia.


Takako Nishizaki Biography & Discography


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