The influence of Socialist Realism on the Yellow River Piano Concerto

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Commissioned by Madam Mao, also known as Jiang Qing (1914-1991), the Yellow River Piano Concerto (1968) is scored for Western orchestra and piano. The piano concerto is based on a previous composition — the Yellow River Cantata (1938) by Xian Xinghai (1909-1945). Like its namesake, the Yellow River, the piano concerto has a tumultuous history and background. The piano concerto was arranged by a group of four composers: Yin Chengzong (b. 1941), Chu Wanghua (b. 1941), Sheng Lihong (b. 1926), and Liu Zhuang (b. 1932) during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Prior to the concerto, all forms of Western music were banned and classical musicians suffered great persecution. The Yellow River Piano Concerto displays aspects of Chinese nationalism and Socialist Realism fused together in virtuosic pianistic display. The People's Republic of China often sought to emulate the Soviet Union, which was considered the elder brother and a suitable model. Ideologies, political practices, cultural reform and the revolutions of the Soviet Union were adapted and sinified by the Communist Party in China by Mao Zedong (1893-1976). This document examines the influences of Mao's Socialist Realism and revolutionary Romanticism on the Yellow River Piano Concerto as contained in his Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art (1942) and Jiang Qing's speeches of 1964. The use of the piano and the form of the concerto raises many questions, as these contradicted the revolutionary elements of nationalism and Communism. The piano is not an instrument native to China, and the concerto form elevates a soloist above an orchestra. The document aims to discover the justification for the use of the piano, a Western instrument, which was considered bourgeois during the Cultural Revolution. Virtuosity and folk-like simplicity are both exploited with a political agenda in the concerto. The concerto had to embody the revolutionary slogans, "Make the old serve the new" and "Foreign things to serve China", to legitimize the piece. The Yellow River Piano Concerto displays the practice of the cultural and artistic policies of the Cultural Revolution and their contradictions.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Music, History, Asia, Australia and Oceania, Philosophy