Symphonic Fantasia: In Memory of Martyrs for Truth (1980)
Sketches in the Mountains of Guizhou, Symphonic Suite (1982)
Symphony No. 4 \6.4.2 - 1" (1990)
A native of the Jing district of Anhui, Zhu Jianer was born in Tianjin and brought up in Shanghai, teaching himself musicas a schoolboy. In 1940 he began to write songs, incidental music and music forwind instruments, turning in 1949 to the composition of film scores. In 1955 hewent to the Soviet Union, where he was able to take an advanced course incomposition at the Moscow Conservatory, completing his studies in 1960, when hereturned to China, working successively at the Shanghai Film Studio and theShanghai Opera, Since 1975 he has served as resident composer to the ShanghaiSymphony Orchestra, concurrently holding a position as a professor ofcomposition at the Shanghai Conservatory.
Zhu has endeavoured in his work to combine organically Westerntechniques of composition with Chinese musical thinking, idioms and style,continuously developing and broadening the referential aspect of his music andforming an individual musical language, He occupies a leading position in musicin China, with important works that include five symphonies, a symphoniccantata Heroic Poems, music for piano, chamber music, compositions forChinese instruments and other music, His Symphonic Fantasia won adistinguished award in the AII-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal in 1981and his Symphony No, 4 won the Grand Prize in the Queen Marie JoseComposition Competition in Switzerland in 1990, In 1991 he was awarded theprize for Outstanding Contribution to Art and Literature, the highest prize inthe gift of the Shanghai municipal government.
Many of Zhu Jianer's works, in particular his symphonies, were firstperformed and won awards at the Shanghai Spring Music Festivals, They have alsobeen performed in various countries, including the former Soviet Union, Japan,Germany, Sweden, Romania, the United States of America and the Philippines andhave been well received in international musical circles.
Zhu Jianer's Symphonic Fantasia - In Memory of Martyrs for Truth
was completed in 1980 and is a profoundly philosophical composition. The theme ofthe introduction sounds like a striking question or exclamation, suggesting a moodof drama. The oboe announces a simple and meditative principal theme, laterdeveloped by the whole orchestra. Suddenly the brass offer the secondary theme,full of excitement and uneasiness. The ominous beats of the kettle-drums leadto the development section in which the conflict becomes sharper and sharper.
At the climax the theme of the introduction returns strongly, but unexpectedlythe final cry is interrupted. To the accompaniment of drums the strings sing anelegy. As the music grows calmer, the harp leads to the primary theme from thesolo violin, raising the mood to a level of sublimity from which the musicturns into a passionate paean of the whole orchestra. In the coda the theme ofthe introduction can be faintly heard, symbolizing the watchfulness which willremain in the minds of the people. The Symphonic Fantasia was firstperformed at the Eighth Shanghai Spring Music Festival by the Shanghai SymphonyOrchestra under Huang Yijun and in 1981 was awarded the Excellent CompositionPrize at the AII-China Symphonic Composition Appraisal.
Sketches in the Mountains of Guizhou, a symphonic suite, was completedin 1982 and first performed in May that year at the Tenth Shanghai Spring MusicFestival under Cao Peng by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, winning the PerformancePrize. It is a true record of the impression given the composer by a visit tothe Guizhou mountain areas where theMiao and Dong people live and marks a turning-point in his style. The suite isin four movements. The first of these, A Festive Match of Lusheng,depicts a contest in which the lusheng, a reed-pipe wind instrumentpopular among the Miao, Yao and Dong peoples, is used by Dong village bands. As theinstruments of the bands are tuned differently, the simultaneous playing ofhundreds of instruments provides a reverberation that is poly tonal in itseffect. In this movement the woodwind and brass represent the respective lusheng
bands, overlapping in key, melody and rhythm, with sounds that are rich andcolourful and vigorous in mood.
The second movement, The Old Sian-Player, suggests the music ofthe sian, a kind of vertical flute popular among the Miao people. It hasa mellow, quiet sound like a low chant. In this movement the woodwind is usedto simulate the sound of the sian and to depict the old musician,intoxicated by his own music and his memories. This is followed by a thirdmovement, Romance in a Moonlight Night, based on a pipa song, akind of Dong folk-song accompanied by the Dong pipa, a four- or five-stringplucked instrument. It is in a special yu mode which closes a melodywith the note la, with the third and fourth notes of the mode oftenhigher pitched than usual. The music is of peculiar serenity. The suite endswith Festival. The fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinesetraditional lunar calendar is a Miao festival. On that day, the Miao peopletaste the newly harvested rice and sing and dance happily to celebrate theoccasion. In the middle part of the movement, against the background of the lusheng
music in seven-four time, the orchestra plays a chiayang (flying song),a kind of Miao folk-song.
Zhu Jianer's Symphony No.4: "6.4.2 - 1", a chambersymphony for bamboo flute and 22 strings, was completed in May 1990 for theQueen Marie Jose International Composition Competition in which it won the soleGrand Prize. According to the rules of the competition, the orchestra consistsof six first violins, six seconds, four violas, four cellos, two double bassesand a solo wind instrument. The composer uses the Chinese bamboo flute as thesolo instrument, with the soloist using in turn three flutes of differentpitches, giving the symphony a very sharp and specific characteristic. With thefour numbers 6, 4, 2 and 1, the proportion of string instruments in theorchestra, a twelve-tone series is devised, which is also used to control therhythm. Various traditional Chinese instrumental techniques are used in thestring writing, which also employs percussive effects, in the absence ofpercussion instruments.
The chambersymphony is an abstract work in a single movement, suggesting the ChineseTaoist principle of developing from nothing and back to nothing. By presentingdifferent tone colours and even minute changes of colour on a single note, the richnessand profundity of the boundless universe is revealed.