Chen Gang (b.1935) and He Zhanhao (b.1933)
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1959 byChen Gang, one of the leading composers in contemporary China, and hisfellow-student He Zhanhao, whose works have won similar fame. The two composerswere still students at the Shanghai Conservatory at the time when theysucceeded in creating one of the best known of all contemporary Chinesecompositions. The concerto follows an ancient legend that has served as thebasis for a number of Chinese operas, offering here a synthesis of East and West.Scored for a solo violin and Western orchestra, the work makes use of themesfrom traditional Shaoxing opera, popularised in a film of the 1950s, while thesolo violin part reflects something of the technique of the er-hu, thetwo-string Chinese fiddle. The work is in one continuous movement, its threesections corresponding to the demands of the narrative and to the divisions ofWestern sonata form.
The story itself is well known in China, although there aresome variants in the tale as it is told. Zhu Yingtai, an intelligent andambitious girl, disguises herself as a boy and sets out for Hangzhou, to study.On her journey she meets Liang Shanbo, a poor scholar, who is also going toHangzhou for the same purpose. They soon find much in common and swear tobecome blood brothers. During their three years of study together, they developa deep friendship, but later Zhu Yingtai is urged by her father to return home.During her years of study she has fallen in love with Liang Shanbo, but hasbeen too shy to admit it to him. He is reluctant to say good-bye to Zhu Yingtaiand walks with her on the first eighteen miles of her journey home, parting ata pavilion, before she continues her journey. He is still unaware of ZhuYingtai's true identity, in spite of the hints she has dropped, which the boyhas not understood. This forms the first section of the concerto. In thecentral development Zhu Yingtai defies her father, who has arranged a marriagefor her with the son of a rich neighbour. Liang Shanbo decides to visit hisfriend, and discovers, to his surprise and delight, that Zhu Yingtai is a girl.Sadly she tells him of her father's plan for her. Liang leaves her, in sorrow,and soon dies of unhappiness. On Zhu Yingtai's wedding-day, when the weddingprocession from the Zhu's to the house of her new husband passes by Liang'sgrave, Zhu Yingtai insists on leaving the bridal palanquin, to mourn at thegrave. At that moment a thunderstorm breaks. In the heavy rain, Liang Shanbo'sgrave suddenly opens. Zhu Yingtai immediately leaps in, before the grave closesagain. After the storm, a rainbow appears. Among the flowers rise twobutterflies, said to be the souls of the immortal lovers, transformed and nowunited for ever.
Songs and Dances of the Silk Road, a suite for solo violinand Western orchestra, is based on traditional melodies to be heard in the Westof China, from where the famous Silk Road takes its course through Central Asiato the Occident. These themes are used by the Slovak-born composer PeterBreiner to form a suite that provides a further synthesis of East and West.Well known internationally for his many recordings, broadcasts, telecasts andconcert appearances, Peter Breiner had his musical training at the Ko%iceConservatory and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, where he wasa composition pupil of Alexander Moyzes. In 1992 he settled in Canada, where hehas continued his varied career as a composer, conductor and pianist. In hissuite he draws on Chinese melodies to create an attractive and skilfullycrafted addition to solo violin repertoire. A Beloved Rose, also known as DaoDa'er and Ma Liya, is a Kazakh folk-song, celebrating the rose as it comes intobloom. The Half Moon Climbs is an Uygur folk-song that became popular in the1940s. When the half moon climbs up into the sky and shines onto the girl'sdressing-table, the boy can no longer suppress his feelings towards her, andserenades her through her window. Spinning is a folk-song from Gansu province.The spinners rest their hope on the spinning-wheel, as they work day and night.Work All Out is a well-known work-song from Northwestern China, suggestingunity of purpose. Sa li hong ba is a folk-song, previously known as Where dothe camel caravans come from?, but re-arranged during the 1940s and 1950s. ThisUygur song depicts the merchants travelling from Xinjiang. The caravanapproaches from the distance, before the main theme emerges, the solo violinleading the caravan forward in the vast surrounding desert. The song Lan HuaHua is widely known in Shanxi and the North of China. In a village in Shanxithe beautiful Lan Hua Hua has been forced to marry a rich husband. She resentsthis kind of marriage, and meets her lover secretly, her sadness reflected inthe music. Following Muslim custom, some women belonging to ethnic minoritiesin Xinjiang wear the veil. The Uygur folk-song Lift Your Veil celebrates awedding. After lifting up the veil of his bride, the bridegroom sings inhappiness, the music a reflection of the man's joy and the girl's modesty.Tulufan is based on Xinjiang folk-song themes, heard as grapes are harvestedand lovers united.