Yellow River Cantata

Yellow River Cantata

Yellow River Cantata

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The Yellow River Cantata (Chinese:黄河大合唱 Pinyin: Huánghé Dàhéchàng) is a cantata by Chinese composer Xian Xinghai (1905–1945). Composed in Yan'an in early 1939 during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the work was inspired by a patriotic poem by Guang Weiran, which was also adapted as the lyrics. Premiered on April 13 of the same year in the Shanbei Gongxue Hall of Yan'an, the work soon spread to all parts of China.

Historical background

According to official accounts by the Communist Party of China, after the Chinese city of Wuhan fell to Japanese invaders in November 1938, the poet Guang Weiran led the 3rd Squad of the Anti-Enemy Troupe across the Yellow River near the Hukou Waterfall and eastwards into the communist anti-Japanese headquarters in Lüliang Mountains. During his journey, he witnessed the local boatmen battle against heavy gales and torrential waves, and heard their spirit-lifting songs.

Upon reaching Yan'an in January 1939, Guang wrote a patriotic poem entitled Yellow River and recited it during the Chinese New Year celebration. The poem spoke of the oppression of Chinese people under the invaders and called for all to take up arms to defend China. Xian Xinghai, who received education in the Conservatoire de Paris and returned to China in 1935, was also present at the recital. He was greatly inspired to write a cantata based on the poem.

According to an account by Xian's daughter, he began work on the composition on March 26, and took merely four...
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