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ClassicsOnline Home » CHEN / HE: Butterfly Lovers Concerto / ZHANG / ZHU: Parting of the Newly Wedded
Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto
He Zhanhao & Chen Gang
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1958 by He Zhanhao and
Chen Gang while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory 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 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.
narrative, derived from Chinese folk-lore, 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 part at a
pavilion, eighteen miles from the city. This forms the exposition of a
tripartite sonata-form movement.
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 realises 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
final section of the concerto, the recapitulation, the love theme re-appears
and Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai emerge from the tomb as a pair of butterflies,
flying together, never more to be parted.
arr. Van Huichang
San Bang Gu (drum with three sticks), popular in Hunan and Tianmen, is a
kind of traditional folk art form. The theme of Street Musician is based on
the melody of San Ban Gu, depicting the bitter life of folk musicians. The introduction
provides a background of misery and the sad tune played by the cello expresses
the wretched fate of the musicians. The technically demanding violin cadenza
is followed by a cry of anguish at the unfairness of life. In a quicker section
the main theme re-appears, in different speed and rhythm, as the music reaches
Love in Spring
Love in Spring was specially written for the Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki.
By using various folk-songs and operatic themes from the North and South of
China, the composer attempts to show the great beauty of Chinese melodies transcribed
for the solo violin. The orchestral introduction, its shifting harmonies recalling
the changing colours of spring, leads to a tender and sensuous theme for the
solo violin. The melody suggests the transience of spring or perhaps a dream
of the past, the dialogue of soloist and orchestra like that of spring breezes
and the willow. In conclusion the theme appears in fragmented and poignant form.
There is an orchestral crescendo, leading to a climax, in a work that conveys
the character of spring, something beyond words, a love that embraces the whole
Parting of the Newly Wedded
Zhu Xiaogu & Zhang Xiaofeng
Zhu Xiaogu and Zhang Xiaofeng wrote Parting of the Newly Wedded in 1980,
basing it on a poem of the same name by the famous Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu.
It tells the tragic story set in the period of the Rebellion of An and Shi,
in which a newly married couple are forced to part. The piece shows the tragic
scene in which the bride bids her husband farewell, as he is enlisted in the
the Newly Wedded is in three sections. The first of these, The Wedding, is
based on a work by a well known Song Dynasty poet. The graceful melody depicts
the shy gesture of a girl waiting to be wed, followed by the loud sound of
wedding gong and drum. The dialogue between violin and cello, with the
glockenspiel, shows the deep love and gentle feelings of the couple, the beauty
of the nuptial chamber. The second part, Surprised by the Change, is introduced
by an ominous drum roll, the Chinese operatic "reckless bear' combined
with the free melody of the solo violin, serene harmony totally disturbed.
There is strong dramatic conflict, as officers come to seize the bridegroom and
take him away to join the army. The bride weeps, as they part, beating her
breast and stamping her feet. The "rapid beat slow singing" of opera shows
the vulnerability of the characters. In the third part, Farewell, the principal
theme re-appears, slow and heavy. The weeping melody represents the helpless
sighs of the bride, now her husband is going to his death. The rapid cadenza
speaks of the girl's indignation, and in conclusion the orchestra plays sad and
grieving music, representing the great tragedy that has taken place.
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