The Butterfly Lovers as a Piano Concerto

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

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 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.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

Arr. from Xian Xinghai: The Yellow River Piano Concerto
Chen Gang/He Zhanhao: The Butterfly Lovers Piano Concerto


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