Homepage > News > Culture > 

Concerto of ancient love story turns 50

2009-05-30 09:23 BJT


Wednesday is a day to be remembered in the history of Chinese music. On May 27th fifty years ago, two fledging students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music presented their work at a ceremony for the tenth anniversary of the founding of New China. Their brainchild was a 26-minute violin concerto called, "Butterfly Lovers," which upon hitting the airwaves the next day, became a national hit.

Their brainchild was a 26-minute violin concerto called, "Butterfly Lovers," which upon hitting the airwaves the next day, became a national hit. 
Their brainchild was a 26-minute violin concerto called,
"Butterfly Lovers," which upon hitting the airwaves the 
next day, became a national hit.

On Tuesday night at the Great Hall of the People, a memorial concert was held to mark the concerto with panache. On today's Spotlight, we bring you Butterfly Lovers... its story, its music, and the people who have performed it with passion and virtuosity.

It's a tune that generates instant recognition from the prelude. It's a tune that does not age as does its performers.

The concerto of Butterfly Lovers was revisited on Tuesday by the first artist to ever perform the piece, Chinese violinist Yu Lina. There's no way to count how many times Yu has lifted the bow for the piece, but the memory of playing twice at the concerto's premiere in 1959 is unforgettable.

Yu Lina, violinist, said, "I was the lead violinist at the premiere. When I finished the first performance, there was total silence from the audience. We were anxious for a moment, and then there was a thunderous applause. I felt relieved and motivated, so I played the second time. "

The prolonged popularity of the violin concerto was the last thing in the minds of He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, two students in their twenties from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who were assigned to compose Chinese music using western instruments. He Zhanhao, a violin major, and Chen Gang, a composition major were called upon to form a group known as the "Experimentation Group for Violin Music of Chinese Style".

Based on the musicality of Yueju opera in Zhejiang province, the students developed He Zhanhao's previous Butterfly Lovers Quartet into a grand concerto, which premiered to overwhelming response on May 27th, 1959. No one expected the work to become a classic. He said he just felt relieved that he completed the assignment.