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A comptent attempt, nothing more.
on October 3, 2003
When the "Butterfly Lover Concerto" was first conceived, it was intended to distill the best of Western classical and traditional Chinese folk music into an well-paced and passionate narrative drama. To bring out its full color and texture, Chinese folk musical instruments were brought in. The concerto divides into "Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai studying together", "saying goodbye", "Zhu resisting the arranged marriage"), "Liang and Zhu meeting again in Zhu's house, and finaly "Lovers transforming into butterflies". The violinist here is the voice of the young lovers. In neither the Naxos or Marco Polo version could Ms. Nishizaki convey much emotion through her interpretation. Too many details, when emphasized and refined, would have significantly elevated the interpretation, were sadly neglected. The Bratislava Orchestra in the Marco Polo CD did not provide enough support, sounding perfunctory and all too timid. In contrast, the Shanghai orchestra in the Naxos CD did a much better job in maintaining the dialogue with the soloist. As for other pieces played by Nishisaki, I feel that she was competent, but lacked character.
To this date, Ms. Yu Li Na, the first person ever to play the Butterfly concerto, remains its best interpreter. Technically superb, she never let it overshadow the most important elements in the concerto: love, loss, and devotion. And she made it sound SO easy. Her attention to the details was exquisite and gratifying: I feel like I can hear the lovers murmur, the wills clash and butterflies fluttering in the storm. It takes a lot of guts to display such vulnerability and intimacy in her interpretation.
In a recording from the late 50s (which I think is available on cassettes), Ms. Yu also recorded the pieces which Ms. Nishizaki played in the Naxos and Marco Polo CDs. She brought much more vitality and intimacy to her music. You don't just hear the music, you see vivid images and hear laughters and shouts of joy.
I do not usually write such long reviews. But the "Butterfly Lover Concerto" is very close to my heart. Tapes of her music are usually available in Chinese bookstore. I sincerely hope whoever is interested in modern Chinese music also takes the time to discover Ms. Yu.