Sunday, May 13, 2012

My favourite love songs

As a follow up to what Peter has written earlier here, about love songs with meaningful/beautiful lyrics, I would like to share a couple of my favourites.

English songs

Off the top of my head, I can think of several; such as John Denver’s Annie’s Song and Perhaps Love, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Kathy’s Song. But if I have to name one with the most meaning lyrics I would choose Roger Whittaker’s What Love Is.

Chinese songs

But my all-time favourite is a Cantonese song titled, 恨綿綿 (han min min); performed here by Hong Kong singer Rosanne Lui. Lest my friend Peter is quick to conclude that this is another coffee house/lounge song, I would ask him to listen to Rosanne’s introduction. She explains that this song is actually adapted from a very famous violin concerto called Butterfly Lovers. What they had done was to take out the more melodious sections and added some lyrics and turned it into a beautiful love ballad.  Here it is.

The original

And now for the original. But first a little historical background.

The Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto (梁祝小提琴协奏曲) is one of the most famous works of Chinese music and certainly one of the most famous outside of China. It is an orchestral adaptation of an ancient legend, the Butterfly Lovers, 梁山伯与祝英 (the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet). Written for the western style orchestra, it features a solo violin played using some Chinese techniques.

The Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto was written in 1959 by two Chinese composers, Chen Gang (陈钢) and He Zhanhao (何占豪), while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The music did not acquire popularity until the late 1970s, when China loosened its restrictions after the Cultural Revolution. Once released from censorship, it became an embodiment of China in transition. (Source: Wikipedia)

There is another interesting background story to how this piece of music came to be composed. According to an interview with one of the composers, the instruction to compose this violin concerto came directly from the Chinese government. At that time, whenever these musicians went out to the countryside to perform, they usually played music composed by Western composers. And so Prime Minister Zhou Enlai himself instructed the musicians to compose a violin concerto which reflected the Chinese culture and heritage; and the result is this beautiful piece of music.

The first time I heard this tune was when I was a recruit in the army more than 40 years ago. One night, after the order, “Lights out!” was given at 11 pm, I continued to listen to my little transistor radio, held close to my ear in order not to disturb my bunk mates. And I heard this beautiful music.

Now, if you have 27 minutes to spare, sit back, relax, clip on your headphones, and savour this beautiful piece of music, performed here by a beautiful Japanese lady called Akiko Suwanai.


peter said...

Who says I dont like "Kwantung Kor?

When I worked in HK, I made my way to Mongkok street market some evenings to listen good old Cantonese music played by street buskers.

Zen said...

I only come to know Rosanne Lui through u-tube and I must say that she is a good singer of cantonese songs (including opera), as well as in mandarin. Unfortunately it was said that she is being overshadowed by the late anita mui who made her debut at same time as hers, a matter of wrong timing. Their singing style is quite similar except that anita is a more versatile and dynamic. Now Rosanne, being older, has to content with acting supporting role many tvb drama serials.

Lam Chun See said...

While searching YouTube, I found several other versions of this song by singers like Yip Chan Tung and Kwan Cheng Kit. The version by Kwan is also very nice; but has 1 stanza less than the Rosanne Lui version; which I like the most.