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ClassicsOnline Home » MA, Sicong: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 1 (Hsiao-Mei Ku, Ning Lu)
Ma Sicong is remembered today as a leading violinist, composer and teacher who devoted his life to creating a new national identity for Chinese music. He pioneered the use of folk idioms, often adopting fragments or motifs from folk tunes and crafting them into his own musical writing. His vast output includes symphonies, concertos, chamber music, operas and ballet music as well as various forms of vocal music. Of this extensive output, Ma’s violin music is widely regarded as one of his most important contributions. This is the first release in the Naxos Chinese Classics series.
By Lesley Sly
Sound & Image (Australia)
By Paolo Hooke
Ma was an innovator in his use of Chinese folk material, adopting themes and shaping them into his own creations. In this disc we can enjoy the composer’s use of folk songs from various regions of China; Shanxi Province, Anhui Province, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, which are seamlessly and skillfully crafted into chamber music pieces that are Western in style, Chinese in character. There is a range of moods; from the lively to the lyrical, from the robust to the rhapsodic. …The violinist is Chinese-born Hsiao-mei Ku who shares a personal connection with the composer…Ku plays the music with a depth of understanding and affection, ably supported by Chinese-born pianist Ning Lu. The total timing is generous at 71 minutes and there are accompanying notes. …Highly recommended; the music is lyrical, warm and approachable, and sometimes, even exquisite.
By David Denton
Ma Sicong (1912–1987)
Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 1
From high to low, east to west, my musical journey has been a remarkable roller-coaster ride. In the best of times, concert performances have taken me to many countries around the world: from Beijing Concert Hall to Carnegie Hall, from the Turpan Basin in China, 154 metres below sea level, to the highest capital in the world, La Paz, Bolivia, at 3,567 metres above. As a young artist, I played many times for China 's leaders including Premier Zhou En-lai, President Deng Xiao-ping and President Liu Shao-qi, and at the age of eleven first appeared on television.
In the worst times – throughout my teens that is – my musical training was interrupted by years of re-education: working in rice paddies, building roads, cleaning pigpens with waste up to my knees, hauling cow manure, carrying heavy sacks on my shoulders, sleeping next to hens in the rural Chinese countryside. Along with the instruments of other conservatory students, my violin was locked up in a storage closet by the "authorities" of the Cultural Revolution.
At the age of nine I had the honour to play for Ma Sicong, the most distinguished and best-known violinist in China. I have heard him play some of the very pieces I recorded on this CD. These happy memories, however, are juxtaposed in my mind with a terrifying image of Mr. Ma being physically abused by the Red Guards in front of a crowd of conservatory students and teachers a few years later during the Cultural Revolution. As staying in China was no longer an option, Ma and his family settled in the United States in the late 1960s. From then until the end of his life, never to return to China, Ma turned his energy to composition. In order better to capture the expression of Ma's musical soul, etched onto the pages of his music, I have often incorporated an 'erhu-style' sound to mimic Chinese folk music.
Although Ma and I were born in different eras, both of which contained much adversity for those following artistic journeys, in the end, both of us still share a profound love for our motherland. Every note in his music resonates deeply in my heart, and I hope that any listener will share my affection for one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world.
Ma Sicong (1912-1987) is remembered today as a leading violinist, composer and pedagogue in China. Ma twice went to France during the 1920s and 1930s, where he first studied violin and later composition. After returning to China, Ma became President of the Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He was also Artistic Director of the Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra and the Taiwan Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1967 he settled in the United States, passing away in 1987.
Ma devoted his whole life to creating a new national identity for Chinese music. He pioneered the use of folk idioms, often adopting fragments or motifs from folk tunes, crafting them into his own musical writing. His vast output includes symphonies, concertos, chamber music compositions, operas, ballet music as well as various forms of vocal music. Of this extensive output, Ma's violin music is widely regarded as one of his most important contributions.
Dragon Lantern Dance (1953) is a piece of lively and pleasant dance music whose theme derives from 'Liu Zhidan', a folk song of Northern Shanxi Province.
Mountain Song (1953) and Lantern Festival Dance (1952) were based on the composer's own experiences working at the construction site of the Huai River in Anhui Province. Both works take inspiration from folk songs; the former is full of lyricism, the latter a joyful dance.
Madrigal (1944) is a pastorale. Its main theme derives from the Inner Mongolian folk tune 'Teasing the Son-in-law'.
Inner Mongolia Suite (1937) appears in three movements. The first, 'Epic', opens with a rhapsodic violin cadenza; its second part uses fragments from the 'Kangding Love Song', a folk melody. 'Nostalgia', the second movement, is "a variation but also preserves the nostalgic mood of its original folk tune". The last movement, 'Dances beyond the Frontier', is both vigorous and joyous with themes from 'Jiao Daniang', an Inner Mongolian folk song.
Lullaby (1935) is a musical reminiscence of a mother who sings to her child. Its musical material 'Bai Zi Diao' comes from Ma's hometown.
Amei Suite (1981) consists of five short sketches depicting life scenes of the Amei ethnic group in Taiwan : 'Spring', 'Solitude', 'Mountain Song', 'Moon' and 'Dancing along the Hillside '. 'Mountain Song' is based on an Amei fisherman's song.
Rondo No. 1 (1937) is brilliant and robust in character with its main subject taken from the folk song 'Qing Bie'.
Tone Poem of Tibet (1941) is in three movements. The music of 'Legend Telling' is, in the composer's words, "as boorish as a beast". 'Lamasery' on the other hand is "a movement of tremendous grief where tears are all dried up". 'Sword Dance' has its reference in the glare of the sword.
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