Butterfly Lovers

September 5, 2005 at 06:51 PM · Has anybody here heard the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto? I was wondering what you guys thought of it.

Replies (37)

September 5, 2005 at 08:45 PM · learn to google

September 5, 2005 at 09:10 PM · didn't someone ask the same question last year? i remember there was a big discusson about this and vanessa mae's recording of it.

September 5, 2005 at 09:13 PM · The butterfly lovers o_O

In fact I recently just got a copy of it. It's written by a chinese composer, I believe. Me? It sounds nice and sweet played, but I'm really not in to that type of stuff. I prefer rondos and pretissimo tempo pieces :P. If you like slow lullaby like pieces, then its the one for you.

September 5, 2005 at 09:18 PM · I read an interview with gil shaham once and he likes it alot

September 5, 2005 at 09:41 PM · ahhhahaha

September 5, 2005 at 10:28 PM · I have it in my violinconcertolist on my log: http://www.violinist.com/blog/jenohubay down under

Cd 62) The Butterfly lovers violinconcerto of Chen Gang by Takako Nishizaki, Naxos 8.557348

And from the same composer: Cd 69) CHEN Gang violinconcerto “Wang Zhaojun” by Takako Nishizaki, Macro Polo 8.223908

Takako Nishizaki, partner of the boss of Naxos made a lot of world premiere recordings of violinconcerto’s, like Louis Kaufman and Vilmos Szabadi. Another Chinese violinconcerto of the composer A Ke Jian she also made: Cd 61) Violinconcerto “Hung Hu”van A Ke Jian, by Takako Nishizaki, Marco Polo 8.223902

I like the Butterfly lovers, like the other 2 Chinese violinconcerto’s and perhaps Hung Hu is the best, but I have not heard them recently. But they are typically Chinese and it seems that you are eating in a Chinese restaurant with a fiddler under your nose just like in Hungary but another violinstyle. On 17 oktober Butterfly Lovers will be played in Amsterdam Concertgebouw in the Netherlands and I will hear it.

September 5, 2005 at 10:37 PM · More about it you can read after typing “Vanessa Mae butterfly lovers “ in google:


September 5, 2005 at 11:49 PM · It is a lovely, haunting, melancholy piece. Ms Mae does not play it properly.

September 6, 2005 at 12:28 AM · Cheesy Ha! I agree

(To those who enjoy the piece disregard this post)=P

September 6, 2005 at 12:25 AM · There was an interesting information on the board found by Clint about composing of this Concerto.


September 6, 2005 at 01:31 AM · As to the concerto being cheesy, I do agree that at times it's over the top, though it is very beautiful (I love that violin duet with the cello). And it's very popular among the Chinese culture; everyone knows it. And the good thing is that it's not overly difficult, I suppose it's as diffcult as the Bruch.

September 6, 2005 at 02:11 AM · Yeah it can be a bit cheesy but that's with all Chinese compositions IMO (I'm Chinese so I can say that =P) but all in all, I think it's beautiful. It's the only Chinese composition I like and stand listening to being played on a violin. I'll need to hear Mae's recording again to make up my mind but Nishizaki's done a pretty good job.

September 6, 2005 at 02:42 AM · I recommend Li Siqing's (sp?) recording. I never really like Nishizaki's, although maybe the one I've heard wasn't her best (I think she recorded it five times...)

September 6, 2005 at 04:16 AM · Hmmm, I'm surprised that so many people have even heard of it. Has anybody heard the Ohguri concerto? I asked about the music earlier, but I wanted to know if anybody had heard to the piece itself.

I also liked the Butterfly, especially the beginning, but I don't know how much I like it. Would it be appropriate to try and compete with that, or should I stick with one of the standard romantic concertos? I also was thinking about a Vivaldi...

September 6, 2005 at 04:45 AM · I'd say stick to the 'usual suspects' =)

September 6, 2005 at 04:52 AM · *Sigh*, that Vivaldi was sooo beautiful, if a little less "exciting", but I know that at the High School level it won't really be appreciated anyway...*cries*


I love those "`usual suspectes'" equally, if not more, I guess, so it's not any sacrifice :-D

September 6, 2005 at 03:58 PM · I know someone that competed with it for a concerto competition and for solo&ensemble and they won both. I think it's an interesting piece that if played well could work in your favor because it is so unique in America.

September 6, 2005 at 06:06 PM · You may find it more interesting if you know the whole story of Butterfly Lovers, with which the concerto goes along the storyline.

September 6, 2005 at 09:28 PM · Joseph Galamba. I like people who play rarities. So you better can Choose Butterfly Lovers than Vivaldi if you hestitate. Perhaps after some time it will be a repertoirepiece like 1th Bruch, Brahms, But. Lovers, Mendelssohn in e, because YOU choose this piece instead of Vivaldi (please if you nevertheless choose that no 4 seasons!!, he had written more)

September 6, 2005 at 10:51 PM · The update on how to obtain the sheet music in the U.S.


Proof Purrfect, Inc.

Clinton F. Nieweg

Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Librarian (Ret.)

(research for Conductors and Librarians)


1.The Violin/Piano reduction is for sale

2.The Full conductor score is for sale

Order these from Johnson Strings a USA dealer


11 John Street - Newton Centre, MA 02459, 617-964-0954, 800-359-9351

[This dealer, as can any other dealer, will import the violin/piano edition and the full score.]

1.Butterfly Lovers Concerto; Chen/He [Violin/Piano] (the publication notes are in Chinese) about $14.00 The violin part and the piano part are both computer engraved.

2.The Full Score is available for sale at about $24.00. This must also be imported.

3.The orchestra parts are only on rental(not for sale) from the publisher HLH. These must be ordered by an orchestra librarian and the rental fee must be paid in advance.

Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto by He Zhanhao (a.k.a. Ho Zhanhao) and Chen Gang (a.k.a. Chen Kung [Kang]). [1959] dur 27'

(Chinese Title= Liang Zhu Xiao Ti Qin Xie Zou Qu)

[also listed as Liang Shan-Bo and Zhu Ying-Tai]

The instrumentation is: 2-2-2-2 - 4-2-3-0 - timp, 3 perc (Gu Ban,Cym,Tam-tam), hp, piano, strings, solo Violin (The percussion includes a part for Gu Ban; two Chinese wooden clappers which can be substituted by playing on woodblocks)

HLH International

Level 11 * Cyberport 1

100 Cyberport Road

Hong Kong SAR

Tel: 852-2760 7818 + Fax: 852-2760 1962

E-Mail: Klaus.Heymann@Naxos.Com

[CEO Naxos Records]

October 7, 2005 at 08:56 PM · Yeah, I agree that it can be a bit cheesey at times, but I absolutely love the rondo section of it! It sounds awesome. The piece itself isn't diffcult... It's just the style and expression that's hard. The chinese portemento is so... different. By the way, exactly how many movements does it have? The numbers on the piece I have don't make sense... It can't ppossibly have... 26? It doesn't help that I can't read most of the little notes on the sside because they're in chinese either.

And what level difficulty would you rate it (out of 6, 6 being the hardest)? :P

October 8, 2005 at 08:18 AM · Hi Linda,

Umm just looking at the music now, it's just one movement but it has at least 10 different sections in the whole piece, so quite unlike the usual 3-movement concertos of Western composers. The sections are marked by the double bar line in the last bar of the previous section. They all have different time and key signatures and tempo.

It's not too difficult but it's got all sorts of different techniques: double stops, glissandos, scale runs, chords, weird string crossings, real high notes and lots of sliding up and down the finger board to create the "crying" effect in some parts. I give it a 4.5 to 5 out of 6. =)

(Wish someone can teach me this piece...)

October 8, 2005 at 12:28 PM · :P I agree Clarissa, the grace notes that aren't really grace notes and the shifts that you actually have to hear are difficult because I'm not used to playing them like that. I still don't really get how to "cry".

My teacher decided to play this concerto when he asked me if I wanted to play something in a totally different style. When I said okay, he went online and ordered this piece while telling me that he hadn't taught it in 10YEARS! It's a interesting concerto.

October 10, 2005 at 05:50 PM · Information as of 10/2005: change of contact at HNH for renting the orchestra parts.

-----Original Message-----

From: Edith Lei [mailto:Edith.Lei@naxos.com]

Sent: Sunday, October 09, 2005 11:06 PM

Thank you for your message. As far as we know, HNH International owns the rights to this piece of music, with authorization from the composers.

Both full score and orchestral parts can be rented from HNH International. Interested parties can contact me at:

Edith Lei,

Naxos Digital Services,

Level 11, Cyberport 1, 100 Cyberport Road,

Hong Kong

Telephone: (852) 2760-7818

Fax: (852) 2989-9181

Email: Edith.Lei@Naxos.com

Recently we rented the music to Buffalo Philharmonic, La Mirada Symphony, The Federal Way Symphony, Singapore Symphony (they toured the programme with Gil Shaham), Empire State Youth Orchestra, Cotati Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra.

Thank you.

Edith Lei

Managing Director

Naxos Digital Services

October 10, 2005 at 11:22 PM · Its not cheesy at all if you know the story of the concerto. Its a very sad story abt Liang Shangbo and Zhu Yingtai who couldn't get together because Zhu's father wanted her to marry to a rich family and both of them commited suicide in the end by jumping into their own graves. They later transform into butterflies so they could be together. The concerto is divided into several sections according to the storyline, 'meeting in school', 'jumping into graves', 'transforming into butterfly' etc.

The shifts and slides written are actually meant to imitate the chinese instrument called erhu. The players of erhu emphasizes more on 'taste' or the general ambience rather than clarity of each note. So to play this concerto well, you need to really listen to the erhu version, which I believe was written for. Then you can understand more on how to do the portementos and shifts. If not, it can sound really bad.

October 11, 2005 at 12:04 AM · Just a correction, the Butterfly is originally written for Violin and Orchestra, not erhu. However, it is helpful to listen to other Chinese instruments playing it to get a sense of the style.

October 11, 2005 at 04:53 PM · Quote: "Learn To Google"...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Thanks, Jim...you made me laugh.

October 11, 2005 at 05:56 PM · I think the actual theme was originally written for chinese instruments, for the "orchestra" in the chinese opera, or so-called Peking-Opera. While Chen and Ho wrote a violin concerto-like version of it.

October 17, 2005 at 10:57 PM · Just 3 hours ago I heard the violinconcerto the Butterfly Lovers in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam at the end of the Chinese festival in Amsterdam. It is written by He Zhanzao/Chen Gang born in 1933/1935 and the Butterfly Lovers (written in 1959) in Chinese is Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai. It was played by the Chinese National Orchestra. Conductor was Liu Yunzhi and soloist Liu Yunzhi. It was big fun to hear such a rarity, which I know from Takako Nischizaki from Naxos on cd, in a concerthall and is was played quite well.

October 18, 2005 at 06:55 PM · I like it.

October 18, 2005 at 07:53 PM · The story behind it is lovely... though it does get a bit weird at points. I mean, if you were a guy and you practically lived with a girl pretending to be a man for three years, you would have to be pretty slow not to notice the truth. That's just my opinion.

The violin part is amazing. Amazing. Scary if you're bad with high notes =P, but amazing. It's really deep and emotional and happy and joyful and sad and angry at the same time. I give the composer a lot of credit.

Yeah another thing, my violin teacher is absolutely in love with this piece and claims that Shakesphere copied off of the storyline for Romeo And Julliet. I don't know if it's true and I'm too lazy to find out the dates the piece was created.

So when youre reading the storyline, DONT think too deeply and wonder how the guy just dies or how the grave suddenly opens. xD Afterall, it is ficticious. I think. Ugh. I stink with history, don't I?

October 31, 2005 at 02:53 PM · I am pleased to inform you that China Records have admitted that they have no rights to the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto and they would withdraw any and all claims to this composition and remove the score rental notice from their website.

HNH International Limited (Naxos’ parent company) and Universal Music Publishing are the legitimate joint publisher of this work. Any enquires on this composition should be sent to me at the following address and email address:

Edith Lei

Managing Director

Naxos Digital Services Ltd.

Level 11, Cyberport 1, 100 Cyberport Road, Hong Kong

Telephone: (852) 2760-7818

Fax: (852) 2989-9181

Email address: Edith.Lei@Naxos.com

November 6, 2005 at 04:04 PM · Has anyone heard Augustin Dumay last september ? He played the Butterfly Lovers at Carnegie Hall and the Boston Symphony Hall with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra conducted by Long Yu. I loved the Boston performance, the acoustic was really something, Mr Dumay was in a great shape and he played Ravel - Tsigane as an uncredible encore. There was a good critic in the Boston Globe with comments on the piece.

December 14, 2008 at 08:51 AM ·


This is the best Butterfly Lovers recording found in youtube.

Performed by violinist Lu Si-qing and Philharmonic Wien at the Golden Hall of Vienna.

Chinese musician Lu Si-qing play on a Stradivarius violin ( Henryk Wieniawski), Lu praised by the Western media as "a great talent and an unparalleled violinist", is the first Asian to have won a gold medal in the International Paganini Violin Competition in Italy in 1987. Lu won the honor at the remarkably early age of 17.

At age eight, he was accepted at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and became the youngest person to study there.

Lu is a master of traditional violin playing techniques, who brings oriental spirit to his playing. Lu blends elements of simplicity, majesty, placidity, and sophistication into this piece.

This concerto was composed by two College Students Chen Gang and He Zhanhao in 1960s



December 14, 2008 at 10:11 PM ·

I don't know if anyone mentioned this, but....

Gil Shaham's recording is so beautiful too!

December 15, 2008 at 10:27 AM ·

Lu and Shaham both play beautifully, but neither can convince me that this is a great concerto.   Something corny/cheesy about the orchestration.   Too cheetos-y?

December 15, 2008 at 06:33 PM ·

It is a Chinese Love Story Music, and all Chinese love it and appreciate it.
The orchestra might not be good, but sure it is a great concerto!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings



Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine