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The Butterfly Lovers & The Yellow River Piano Concertos

Gang / Jie / New Zealand Sym Orch / Kuan
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570607   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Chen GangXinghai Xian
Performer:  Chen Jie
Conductor:  Carolyn Kuan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 49 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It may sound like a cop-out to say that this is just the sort of thing if you like this sort of thing, but it’s true nonetheless. The Yellow River Piano Concerto was composed, or assembled, by a committee of six. It is in turn arranged from a cantata by Xian Xinghai, so perhaps he deserves the most credit for the basic thematic material. It sounds like a film score based on Chinese folk tunes, harmonized more or less in the Western style, and as a piece of Socialist Realist fluff it’s quite nice.

The Butterfly Lovers, by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao started life as a violin concerto, and it has to be admitted that it sounds best in its original form. I mean, the piano literature has its share of butterflies, but if you’ve got a
Read more violin you might as well use it, right? The work was popularized by Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki, who recorded it excellently several times. The current arrangement was made by Chen Gang, and “edited” by the pianist on this recording, Chen Jie, presumably to make the part more pianistic.

Chen plays both works quite well, especially The Butterfly Lovers, which she presumably tailored to her particular ability to project lyrical melodies decorated by sparkling passagework. The New Zealand Symphony under Carolyn Kuan accompanies with thorough professionalism, and the participants are well recorded. I suspect that this release was aimed primarily at the Asian market, but there’s no reason that anyone who likes pretty tunes attractively arranged won’t enjoy it equally well.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin "Butterfly Lovers" by Chen Gang
Performer:  Chen Jie (Piano)
Conductor:  Carolyn Kuan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959 
Notes: Arrangement: Chen Jie 
The Yellow River by Xinghai Xian
Performer:  Chen Jie (Piano)
Conductor:  Carolyn Kuan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1940; China 

Sound Samples

The Yellow River Piano Concerto: I. Prelude: The Song of the Yellow River Boatmen
The Yellow River Piano Concerto: II. Ode to the Yellow River
The Yellow River Piano Concerto: III. The Yellow River in Wrath
The Yellow River Piano Concerto: IV. Defend the Yellow River
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto (arr. Gang Chen for piano and orchestra, edited by Jie Chen)

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