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fuwen

My favourite Chinese Classicals

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This one by Hugo is good music and good recording:

 

Lady General MU Takes Command (sounds horrible in English)

The one I have is the gold disc version HRP 770G

 

The recordings are good for those who like to blast their system. I actually do not like this particular conductor Hu Bing-xu, who has been the conductor of our very own Singapore Chinese Orchestra, but I have to admit that he conducted well in this album.

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Edited by fuwen

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For so many years, my favourite Chinese orchestra conductor is still Peng Xiu Wen. Sad to say the many conductors of Chinese orchestra today IMHP still cannot come close to Peng Xiu Wen. Peng Xiu Wen was the resident conductor of China Broadcasting Orchestra and with him the orchestra performs fantastically. The music was full of life, energetic, have punch and really hard to image you get this type of passion from a professional orchestra. His total control of the orchestra is IMO like that of Karajan and Berlin Philharmonic. This type of passionate performance I have not heard many with professional orchestra, both Chinese and Western. From what I have heard only Carlos Kleiber was able to make an orchestra do that, and also the 2nd theme of the first movement by Karajan and Berlin in Tchaikovsky Sym no. 6. Of course there will be more examples out there

but these are what I am familar with.

 

This is the recording that I like very much, and it comes in pair with another one with red cover. Unfortunately they are out of print and I guess unlikely to be available today. These CDs (they are first release as LPs) were released in those days where I am a poor student and not into hifi yet so did not own a copy of each. I managed to buy the one here many many years back in Beethoven, a shop I still very much missed.

 

However, there are still Peng Xiu Wen recordings available under China recording label, HK label and Hugo label. By then Peng was already well over his prime but the performances are still world class and hard to match. Try the Hugo and HK ones as the chinese recordings are quite bad in quality.

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Edited by fuwen

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If u like erhu music you can consider the Erhu concerto 'Parting of the newly weds' played by the very good Min Hui-fen.

 

Hugo HRP 742-2

 

This album the accompaning orchestra were Shanghai Chinese Orchestra and The Ensemble of Shanghai Beijing Opera House. Conductor was Xia Fei-yun.

 

Play back of some of the old recordings of Huga can sometimes be tricky but music and performance wise this album is definitely good.

 

Incidentally Hugo recordings were monitored by Senheisser HD 540 Reference Gold headphones.

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Fuwen, I've come across many different recordings of "The Butterfly Lovers" with Takako Nishizaki featured as soloist on most of them. Recently I spotted a Naxos SACD copy which costs just below 20 bucks. Instead of plunging into it because of cost and it being a SACD, which recording appeals to U thus far?

 

http://www.sa-cd.net/showtitle/2169

user posted image

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I just discovered a link which shows reviews of different recordings of the same piece of composition. Since U're the authority on Chinese classical, your comments are appreciated.

 

http://inkpot.com/classical/butterflyloversr.html

 

Btw, just the first few bars of the first movement is enough to give me the goose pimples; so strong is the melody.

Edited by Mackie

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Hi! Mackie, please do not quote me as the authority on Chinese Classical, as I am just another ordinary music lover, though I did play erhu in a Chinese Orchestra for almost 10 years (now retired, ha ha!), and I am just trying to share some good performances in this friendly and comfortable forum.

 

Oh yes, Takako Nishizaki is still my favourite violin soloist as far as 'Butterfly Lovers' is concerned. Her very first recording with HK label was good but lack the maturity and the correct flavour for Chinese music, but technically she is very good. So far she is one of the few that let me feel very comfortable playing the fast theme in part II of the music. Many other players appeared to be clumsy playing the same part. The staccato are just not elegant and agile enough.

 

I have seem the album above but did not buy it as generally I am still not very convince on Chinese Music performed by non-Chinese, and of course with the exception of Takako Nishizaki, who is a japanese but after all not so non-Chinese right? Furthur more in the album above she is accompanied by a New Zealand Orchestra and a non-Chinese conductor. So most likely I will not get it unless somebody highly recommended it. Her first recording with HK also has release in SACD but I think that version is still not her best version.

 

I have also mentioned a better-not-to-buy SACD version of the Butterfly Lovers in one of the SACD thread in this forum.

 

So far the versions I like best is the one by Marco Polo featuring Takako Nishizaki as the soloist and partnered with 'The Yellow River Concerto' and one by Hugo partnered with Mendelsonn Violin concerto.

I do heard that some of the Chinese violinists played very good Butterfly Lover but unfortunately my exposure with those performances was very little and generally the recordings were not satisfactory.

 

Will post some pictures of the 2 versions I mentioned ASAP, and maybe some others.

 

Anyway Butterfly Lovers is definitely one of the master pieces of Chinese Classical composed. There are variants where the solo instrument is replaced by piano, pipa etc but I find that this piece is written for violin and so can only be convincing when played by a violin.

Edited by fuwen

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Oh! The above is the SACD version of Takako Nishizaki first recording of the Butterfly Lovers. Not recommended only if u are fussy about her not so polish on the part of Chinese flavour but overall performance is OK and the recording is OK. I believe it is one of the best sellers of the HK label. However, the performance of the Yellow Piano concerto to me is below average and definitely there are better ones out there. So all in all this SACD may not be a good buy unless u are a supporter of Takako Nishizaki and would like to keep a copy of her first recording for completeness. Anyway from memory this recording has the most agile fast movement as she was still young compared to her recent recording.

 

Personally I have this CD version but not considering getting the SACD version.

 

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Hi! Mackie, have been concentrating on Western classical lately so have not got in touch with Butterfly Lovers for quite a while. Over the weekends I went through the 5 versions that I have. I will post something here for your reference. YMMV.

 

I guess this XRCD2 version by Hugo should be one of the best, if not the most expensive Butterfly Lovers u can buy. Of course recording is good, typical of Hugo but this 1990 early Hugo recording maybe a tad harsh. Soloist of the Butterfly Lovers and the Yellow River Piano Concerto are both top class. The violinist Kong Zhao-hui is presently with SSO and has been featured in Zao Pao sometimes back. The pianist Shi Shu-cheng is one of the original composers of the Yellow River (Yellow River was group composed, as so was the Butterfly Lovers) and I believe he has been playing it in the order of thousands times.

 

Supporting orchestra and conductor were OK and well recorded.

 

The Butterfly Lovers was broken into 7 tracks with individual titles but these are for listener easy reference only and were not indicated in the original scores.

 

Of course when u buy Hugo stuff u get a nicely prepared CD booklet with details of the music and the performers, and also the recording details.

 

This XRCD also includes an additonal music Ode to the Red Flag. I am not totally agreeable to this composition but nevertheless this is a good piece to show off hifi system and for blasting purposes. This particular track was done in 24 bit digital recording and Hugo had achieved a very big sound stage hardly matched by other Chinese Orchestra recordings and can even surpresses some western classical recording.

 

Should available in the normal CD version but I am not sure whether the Ode to the Red Flag is included or not as I do not owned one.

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Edited by fuwen

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This is the Takako Nishizaki version that I have. I am a supporter for Nishizaki. In this SACD she presented a feminine and matured and sometime a rather free tempo of the Butterfly Lover. I guess she has been playing this for hundreds or thousands of time. Supporting orchestra and conductor were OK.

 

As for the Yellow River Concerto, also a very good soloist Yin Chengzong who was also one of the composers of the Yellow River.

 

I felt that the orchestra recordings were not as good as the above Hugo one.

 

Also this SACD provides a nice CD booklet, the cover picture is very nice, but for some reasons they forgot to include the tracks details. Also the Butterfly Lovers was cut into a single track.

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Edited by fuwen

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This is IMO another well performed and well recorded Butterfly Lovers. I have both the gold disc and the normal disc version. Recording was done in 24bit digital. No XRCD and SACD versions yet (Hugo seems to move away from SACD, probably not moving into DSD digital master, I guess). The Orchestra was from Russia and the conductor an indonesian Chinese.

 

The Butterfly Lovers was cut into 8 tracks, and it was accompanied by Mendelssohn violin concerto.

 

The violinist Xue Wei was using a Stradivari in this recording.

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Edited by fuwen

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This one I have mentioned before a SACD that is disappointing, and in this case is a Butterfly Lovers / Yellow River recording. Actually the performances were good but the recording did not do justice to the musicians. Definitely not worth paying SACD price for the quality, but I think for a normal CD price maybe OK, but I am not sure is there a normal CD version of this.

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Thanks very much Fuwen. U seem to have conventional/normal and XRCD or SACD of some of these albums and I wonder if U are willing to sell the conventional cd to me. tongue.gif

 

This copy seems to be well liked internationally as well.

user posted image

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Another version:

Bought this Naxos Hybrid SACD/CD from Gramophone sale.

It has CD Stereo layer, 2-Channel Stereo Mastered in DSD & 5.1 multichannel surround mastered in DSD.

 

The Butterfly Lovers Concerto with Takako Nishizaki / New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

The Concerto is in 1 track.

 

The other 8 tracks are by Peter Breiner: Songs and Dances from the Silk Road consisting of folk melodies.

 

user posted image

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Thanks to Fuwen's generosity and recommendations, I now owned these copies of the Butterfly Lovers Concert as shown below. As with classical works, emotions invoked by the program, soloist and orchestra takes precedence over sound quality. Here's my personal assessment.

 

Hugo release

user posted image

 

Marco Polo release

user posted image

 

Starting with the Hugo release, what pleases me is the wide and spacious recording with the soloist anchored in the center without being too prominent over the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Wei, the soloist is a very competent performer and constantly impresses me with his technical skills. In this program, the violin takes on the voice of Zhu YingTai (female) and the cello as Liang Shanpo (male).

 

The Marco Polo release sounds more upfront and thus louder but the soloist Nishizaki is well positioned to blend in and emerge at will from the Shanghai Orchestra. Personally, I prefer the Hugo's sound for its greater 3D soundstage.

 

The striking difference between Wei and Nishizaki is evident in the second part "Studying together". Wei performed his vibrato with greater speed and amazes me so but Nishizaki played hers at a notably slower pace. I perceive the vibrato section as depiction of the two lovers at play and enjoying each other's company during this happy phase in their lives. Whereas Wei impresses with his speed and even notes, Nishizaki's presentation was more involving and the bent notes (almost on the brink of being out-of-tune) to each vibrato section is simply a delight! It surely defines the characters as young, rebellious, playful and cheerful at that moment.

 

Owing to the slower pace of Nishizaki and her accompanying Shanghai Orchestra, the recording comes across as more emotionally involving and her gender works in her favour in presenting Zhu"s roller-coaster emotions which finally ended in happiness, following her utter despair which led her to suicide. The second last part which orchestrates the scene of her running to Liang's tomb is very different between the 2 releases. The Shanghai Orchestra used wooden claps to depict Zhu"s running steps towards Liang"s tomb. In the final when Zhu and Liang rose from their graves as butterflies, the Chinese orchestra sounded more aggressive and loud, which invokes emotions of lament and anguish to the factors which caused the ominous ending. Conversely, the Russian orchestra approached the outcome in a more subtle, understanding and optimistic way. It seems to harp more on the final happiness when Zhu and Liang were finally reunited with a tinge of melancholy on their deaths.

 

Both orchestras successfully provide the changing landscapes as the story unfolds but I prefer the Russian orchestra for its smoother and relatively laidback string section. In terms of soundstaging and instrument definition, the Marco Polo release was not as good as Hugo's; notably the cluttered sound of each section during climatic and fast passages, which resulted in lesser definition and coherence in the whole orchestra's presentation.

 

To me, the two releases sound very different and this is enough a reason to own these albums on the same work. The Hugo's release scores higher than Marco Polo in terms of sound quality but where the presention and emotions are concerned, there's no clear winner and different enough to suit the listener's mood and wants on different days. Emotionally, I was overwhelmed with emotions, teary eyes and shivers down my spine with the Hugo's finale. With the Marco Polo release, anguish pervaded my emotions more.

 

Last but not least, I wonder if the following formula could result in the best of both worlds: Hugo > Nishizaki > Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

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