Effect of national traditions on the dramaturgy of the piano concert «The Four Spirits» by Chen Yi

  • Engi Pan Hon Postgraduate student, Lviv National Music Academy named after Mykola Lysenko, Lviv (Ukraine).
Keywords: Chinese piano concert, Chinese mythology, four spirits, sound image, Chen Yi.


Genre of the piano concert holds a prominent place in the works of
contemporary Chinese composers. The interest is due to the integration of
Chinese culture into the Western music world, the awareness of piano
versatility for national musical material adaptation. Article analyses for the first time one of the most recently written works of the contemporary Chinese-
American composer Chen Yi – the piano concert “The Four Spirits” (2016). The purpose of the article is to determine the effect of ancient Chinese
mythology on the content and structure of the piano concert “The Four
Spirits”, written by Chinese composer Chen Yi. The methodology uses
musical and theoretical analysis method to study work’s musical drama and
program basis.The concert analysed combines organically pan-European and
national features, when the national dominates over the European. This is
manifested in the concert at the content level, through Chinese mythology
images, as well as in the musical language, by stylizing and quoting folk
melodies common in various regions of China. Referring to the basics of
Chinese mythology, Chen Yi reproduces in the 4-part cycle of the suite type
the imagination of four sacred animals, symbols of Chinese culture: dragon,
xuanwu (a combination of turtle and snake), tiger and phoenix. The composer
stylizes in the lyrical and energetic music of the first part of the concert the
Chinese folk songs from Central China. Mysterious mood and imagery of the
second part are reproduced by the sonorous orchestral recording and spatial
layers in the piano-solo part. Dramatic images of the third part, which is a
link to the final, arise due to collisions of piano registers emphasized by means of orchestration. The fourth part is lively and energetic; the thematic
material is borrowed from the folk melody of Southern China. The piano and
orchestra are transformed in each part into an organic whole, symbolizing
the spirit of Chinese culture. The unique national traditions, in particular the
ancient mythology of the Chinese people, became the source of the original
musical ideas and their original embodiment by the modern Chinese


1. Сhen, Yi. URL: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Чэнь_И_(skripаchkа) [In
2. Сhen, Yi. URL: http://composers21.com/compdocs/chenyi.htm [In
3. Сomposer Сhen Yi. Сhen Yi. Four Spirits. For Piano and Orchestra.
Theodore Presser Company, 2016. P. 2–3. [In English].
4. Сhen, Yi. Four Spirits For Piano and Orchestra: Full score. Theodore
Presser Company, 2016. 165 Р. [In English].
How to Cite
Pan Hon, E. (2019). Effect of national traditions on the dramaturgy of the piano concert «The Four Spirits» by Chen Yi. Scientific Collections of the Lviv National Music Academy Named After MV Lysenko, (44), 154-166. https://doi.org/10.33398/2310-0583.2019.44.154.166
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