The Butterfly Lovers, Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos

Available on CD and digital download

Gil Shaham violin

Lan Shui conductor

Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Any musical premiere is fraught with tension, but the showcase of student compositions in Shanghai on 27 May 1959 was especially so. Backstage at the Lyceum, the city’s first western-style theatre, the composition student Chen Gang was nervously pacing the floor. His co-creator of The Butterfly Lovers concerto, the violinist He Zhanhao, was playing in the student orchestra, his hands and mind at least occupied. The violin soloist Yu Lina took the stage, her hair cut so short that audiences would later find the player inextricable from the piece, whose narrative concerned a young girl passing herself off as a boy.

After the final notes came interminable silence – then applause, which soon fell intoa steady synchronized clapping that refused to let up until the conductor relented andsignalled the orchestra to perform the entire piece again. The next day, news of the

concerto’s success was all over the radio. A handful of young, unsophisticated studentsquickly became national celebrities. Five years later, nearly everyone associated with the piece was in prison.

'Gil Shaham plays both works in fine style. The SSO play with verve and finesse, and the recorded sound is particularly full and well blended.'


'Shaham remains himself throughout, displaying his characteristic rich tone production and technical alertness, but he displays insight into the devices that help create the work’s [Butterfly Lovers] special identity if not with a memory of hearing it performed. Its cinematic lushness and its idiomatic violin part should help it gain a foothold, now after almost 50 years…. The recorded sound, with sufficient breadth and depth to capture the orchestra’s full dynamic range, nevertheless focusing directly on the soloist, shows all the detail that Shaham has worked into his performances… Strongly recommended for a welcome performance of The Butterfly Lovers and urgently recommended for an urgent reading of Tchaikovsky.'