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ClassicsOnline Home » CHEN / HE: Butterfly Lovers Zheng Concerto (The) / Eternal Regret of Lin'An
In the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties, the music and
dance from Qiuci, an ancient city state that once
existed around the present Kuche, Xinjiang,
in northwest China, won wide popularity in the central-region of China and had
a profound influence on the development of the music and dance of the Han
people. The beautiful Huteng dance is a genre of the Qiuci dance. It was developed on the basis of the
introduction of the dance techniques of north India
Unfortunately, the music has been lost. With Persian and Oriental tunes as the
main musical material, the present Huteng Dance is
based on the composer’s profound study of a vast amount of historical data.
Though it was originally composed as part of the score of the drama The Qin King Li Shimin, owing to its beautiful melody and integral
structure, it has frequently been performed as an independent concert piece.
BY THE YILI RIVER
The Yili is a river flowing through the north area of Xinjiang.With Xinjiang folk-songs
as the material, By
the Yili River is a set of variations on a single
theme. Somewhat like a rondo, its first and third parts are descriptions of a
celebrators’ party. Lyrical and beautiful, the central part depicts a young
couple in love, meeting by the Yili River
and strollings by its banks.
FESTIVE HORSE RACE
He Zhanhao and Wang Lingkang
racing is part of the custom of some Chinese minority peoples. The first part
of Festive Horse Race depicts the
people riding happily on horseback to the site of the horse race festival. The
second part is a picture of the horse racers from different directions
competing keenly for the prize.
ETERNAL REGRET OF LIN’AN
(modern Hangzhou) was China’s capital
in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The zhongruan
concerto Eternal Regret of Lin’an is based on the tragedy of Yue
Fei (1103-1142), a great national hero and famous
general, who was put into prison in Lin’an and
murdered there by the capitulationist officials
headed by Qin Gui who favoured surrender because of his keeping up resistance
against the invasion of the Nuzhens, a tribe from the
north. The concerto for the zhongruan, a Chinese plucked
instrument, Eternal Regret of Lin’an was composed by He Zhanhao
using the ancient tune The River All Red
as the basic musical material and by reference to another zhong
ruan concerto The
River All Red by Lin Liangji. The music expresses
the grief and indignation of Yue Fei
won the Prize of Composition at the 14th Shanghai Spring Music Festival in
THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS
He Zhanhao and Chen Gang arranged by He Zhanhao
of the Butterfly Lovers is well known throughout China. Zhu Yingtai,
a talented girl had disguised herself as a man and was on her way to Hangzhou for the sake of
schooling, met Liang Shanbo,
a poor scholar who was also going to Hangzhou to study. They soon found
much in common and swore regarding each other as blood brothers. In the three
years’ study together, they developed deep friendship. Later Zhu Yingtai was urged by her father to go back home. By then
she had fallen in love with Liang, but she was shy to
express her love directly to him. On the eve of departure, when saying good-bye
to the teacher’s wife, Zhu told her that she was really a girl and asked her to
act as a matchmaker between her and Liang. Liang was reluctant to say good-bye to Zhu and walked
eighteen miles to send her. On the way, Zhu Yingtai
repeatedly made use of the scenery they saw as metaphors to hint to Liang Shanbo that she was
actually a girl. She also implicitly revealed again and again her desire to
marry him, but the simple Liang Shanbo
did not take her hint. At parting the helpless Zhu could do nothing else but
offer the pretext that she had a younger sister, whom she was willing to make
his wife. She urged him again and again to go to her home as soon as possible
to marry her younger sister. It was only after Liang
returned to the school that he knows about the truth from the teacher’s wife. The
excited Liang arranged to go Zhu’s home. In female
dress, Zhu met him in the study room upstairs. She was very sad to tell him
that her father had betrothed her to Ma Wencai, a
young man from a rich family. Liang was upset and
finally left sorrowfully. Soon after he died of depression.
On the day of Zhu’s wedding, when the wedding procession from Zhu’s to Ma’s
house passed by Liang’s grave, Zhu insisted on
getting down from the bridal sedan and mourning by Liang’s
grave. At that time a thunderstorm began. In the heavy rain, Liang’s grave suddenly cracked. Zhu immediately threw
herself into the crack, then the grave closed again. After
the storm, there appeared a colourful rainbow across
the bright sky. Among the flowers, a couple of butterflies fluttered. It was
said that there were the souls of the immortal lovers that had turned into
butterflies. Based on the legend, there have been various regional operas staged.
early 1950s, the filming of the Shaoxing opera The Butterfly Lovers made the legend even
more widely known. It was on the basis of the melody of the Shaoxing
opera that He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, both young
students of Shanghai Conservatory of Music, composed a violin concerto in 1959.
Though it was composed with western composition techniques, the concerto is
infused with rich Chinese national colour. Since its
appearance, it has not only achieved wide popularity in China but
become the best-known modern Chinese orchestral piece abroad. Thirty years
later, He Zhanhao, one of the composers of the violin
concerto, arranged it as a concerto for the zheng, an
ancient Chinese plucked stringed instrument, and orchestra.
movement concerto is in sonata form. The exposition, the development and the recapitulation
respectively depict the three stages of the dramatic conflict - Falling in
love, Resisting Marriage and Turning into Butterflies.
The Exposition: Falling in Love
beginning, against the mild strings, the piano plays the pretty melody
depicting the beautiful spring sights of Jiangnan.
Accompanied by delicate arpeggios, the solo zheng
plays the poetic love theme. Then a dialogue between the zheng
and the cello depicts Zhu and Liang making acquaintance
with each other. The lively rondo describes the intimate friendship between Zhu
and Liang during three years’ study together. When
the music slows down, the moving melody exquisitely portrays their reluctance
to say good-bye to each other when parting.
The Development: Resisting Forced
The sombre ominous music is the symbol of harsh feudal power.
On the piano is played the theme of Zhu’s father compelling her to accept the
forced marriage. The zheng first expresses Zhu’s
sorrow in a free rhythm, then, with strongly syncopated chords, plays the theme
of Zhu resisting the marriage. This theme is derived from these secondary
themes. It alternates with Zhu’s father’s theme, developing the unswerving
image of Zhu, who was faithful to her love for Liang.
The touchingly grievous dialogue between the zheng
and the cello profoundly pictures the scene of Zhu’s tragic meeting with Liang in the study room upstairs. Then the music turns to
describe Liang’s death, Zhu’s weeping in front of Liang’s grave and the grave’s cracking. With the last
phrase on the zheng depicting Zhu’s jumping into the
grave, the music reaches its climax.
Recapitulation: Turning into
of love between Liang and Zhu is recapitulated. Liang and Zhu’s souls have turned into a couple of colourful butterflies fluttering together among the
flowers. They would never be separated, and their faithful love has been
praised by people from generation to generation.
A native of
He Zhanhao was born in 1933. He once worked with the orchestra
of the Zhejiang Shaoxing
Opera Troupe. Later he entered the Shanghai
conservatory of Music to take a refresher course in the violin. He formed with
several classmates, an experimental group of national school of the violin. The
violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers was
made as a result of their experiments. After graduation, he transferred to the
Composition Department and began to study composition under Ding Shande. In addition to The
Butterfly Lovers, his important works include string quartet Martyr’s Diary, the symphonic poem Longhua Pagoda and others.
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CHEN / HE: Butterfly Lovers Zheng Concerto (The) /...