Sheng Zhongguo, the violinist famous for ‘Butterfly Lovers’ concerto, passes away

By Yang Chuchu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/11 17:13:40

Sheng Zhongguo Photo: IC

One of China's best-known violinists Sheng Zhongguo passed away aged 77 in Beijing on Friday.

According to Chinese media reports, the artist famed for his musical interpretation of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto died from a heart attack.

Sheng's influence was so massive that the violin is inextricably tied to the master musician in the minds of many Chinese.

"Playing Butterfly Lovers, one should combine the decorative and formal beauty of the West and the Chinese ink painting aesthetic that combines poetry and painting," Sheng once said.

Sheng was a master at both classical and modern pieces from various periods, as well as traditional Chinese music. By combining music with life, his performances were deeply emotional and full of artistic appeal.

Sheng was born in 1941 to a musical family. His father Sheng Xue was himself also a famous violinist and professor, while his mother, Zhu Bing, majored in vocal music. His parents had 11 children, among which 10 majored in music and nine played the violin.

The eldest son, Sheng began playing the violin at the age of 5 and gave his first public performance when he was 7.

Representing China

As a national-level soloist with the China National Symphony Orchestra, Sheng was among the first Chinese musicians to win honors on the international stage with a performance style that was filled with enthusiasm and poetic charm. In 1980, he held 12 concerts in six cities in Australia, making quite a stir there.

These performances not only were a landmark for Sino-Australian cultural exchanges, but also marked the official entrance of Chinese violin performances onto international cultural and art stage. Sheng was listed as one of the "world's greatest artists" by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after his performances in the country.

Sheng's influence also extended to Japan. The Japanese government awarded him with the title of Culture Ambassador and applauded his contributions to Sino-Japanese cultural relation.

After the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, Sheng traveled to disaster-hit areas to perform for the people there.

"Each of my performances has its purpose. I do not seek my own fame, I just try to represent China and Chinese musicians," he once said.

During his lifetime, Sheng worked with top musicians at home and abroad. In 1979, he performed with world-famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin, after which Menuhin praised Sheng as the best partner to have to play the Bach Double Violin Concerto in China.

Nurturing the next generation

In recent years, Sheng devoted himself to the development of Chinese music. He often gave speeches in universities and performed across the country.

Sheng worked with other musicians to launch popularization projects aimed at improving conditions for future musicians in China.

He also founded the Youth Amateur Violin Concours, an institution for finding young violin talents.

 "When I was young, my father asked him to teach me. He paid a lot of attention to Chinese violinists and cared about young violinists," violinist Lü Siqing told Chinese media on Friday.

After the news of his death, many fans took to Sina Weibo to express their grief.

"I have listened to his Butterfly Lovers since I was a child. The concerto left a deep impression on me. His death will be a big loss for China's musical development," one netizen posted on Sina Weibo.

"He was many people's first musical mentor. May he rest in peace," posted another.
Newspaper headline: Poetic charm

Posted in: MUSIC

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