Asian classic review: The Buttefly Lovers

Asian classic review: The Buttefly Lovers
CD cover: The Butterfly Lovers: Piano Concerto by Chen Jie (piano) and New Zealand Symphony

Asian Classics

THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS:

PIANO CONCERTO

Chen Jie, Piano

****½

The title is not a misprint. Asia's most popular violin concerto, The Butterfly Lovers by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, has indeed been transcribed as a virtuoso piano concerto.

This is not the first recording of it in its piano guise, having previously premiered and been recorded by the late Chinese pianist Hsu Fei Ping. To Chen Gang's credit, his transcription is very idiomatic, employing pianistic capabilities to good effect.

All the familiar music is retained. While the solo part is beefed up to include heavy chords, octave passages and added dissonance, there are also some alterations to the orchestration. One does not miss the violin, even if the Beijing opera vocal inflexions and portamenti on strings do not come through as poignantly on the piano.

The Butterfly Lovers is preceded on the disc by the four-movement piano concerto of Xian Xinghai's Yellow River Cantata (1939). An outcome is that the shadow of the familiar Yellow River Piano Concerto (1969) looms large over the violin concerto's 27 minutes.

Chinese pianist Chen Jie gives excellent barnstorming accounts of both concertos and she is alertly partnered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Worth several listens.


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