Siqing Lu / Yiu-Kwong Chung / Taipei Chinese Orchestra

The Butterfly Lovers

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Several Western classical labels have plunged into the growing Chinese market, and the releases thus far from Sweden's BIS are especially interesting, with fusions that might appeal to both Western and Chinese audiences. So it is here: Chinese violinist Lü Siqing, whose teachers included Yehudi Menuhin, offers a varied program in which the Western pieces are more Chinese than one might think, and vice versa. Lü is accompanied not by a symphony orchestra, but a Chinese orchestra: a large ensemble patterned after the Western orchestra, in sections, but with Chinese instruments. He does well to start with Fritz Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois, Op. 3, a work that might well have been known to the people who introduced Western music in China (Kreisler visited the country in 1923, although the piece was written previously, without benefit of exposure to actual Chinese music). Works by Wieniawski, Sarasate, and Tchaikovsky are arranged for Chinese orchestra, while the Chinese centerpiece, the collaboratively composed Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, shows a good deal of Western influence: so much so, in fact, that the composers ran afoul of the strict Cultural Revolution regime. The title refers to a Chinese folktale to which the music refers programatically, but the structures of the three movements also show signs of sonata form. In short, the music splits culturally in a dozen different ways, just like the cultures of the modern world do. Highly recommended, and beautifully recorded in a Taipei orchestral hall by a Western engineering staff.

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