Wang Jianzhong

Wang Jianzhong (Chinese: 王建中) (1933-2016)[1] was a Chinese composer, pianist, and educator. His works, many of them composed during the Cultural Revolution, bridge Chinese folk music and Western classical piano tradition and have made him a household name in his own country.[2] His A Hundred Birds Paying Homage to the Phoenix is considered one of the six representative twentieth-century Chinese piano masterpieces.[3]


Wang was born in Shanghai in 1933. His parents were from Jiangyin and Zhejiang Province. He began his piano study at the age of 10. In 1950, he was accepted into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he majored in composition and piano. In 1958, after his graduation, he became a professor at the conservatory. During the 1970s he served as the composer-in-residence for the Central Philharmonic Orchestra. He returned to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1980s where he served as an associate professor, professor, associate chair, and associate dean.[4] Among his students there were the pianists Haochen Zhang, Peng-Peng Gong and Jenny Q. Chai and the composer Bright Sheng.[5][6][7] Wang passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2016.[1]

Piano WorksEdit

Wang composed a large body of works for piano based on themes from Chinese folk music during the 1960s and 1970s, when the Cultural Revolution forbade compositions which were not based on either traditional Chinese folk melodies or revolutionary songs. Towards the end of that period, the restrictions became slightly more relaxed, and Wang, like his contemporary Li Yinghai, began to base his compositions on Chinese court music as well.[8][9] The popularity of Wang's compositions continued after the bans on contemporary and Western music were lifted at the end of the Cultural Revolution. According to China Daily, his works are valued for the insight they provide into "the dilemma faced by Wang's generation of Chinese composers during a time of great social turmoil."[2] His piano works include:

  • Red Flag Road (piano concerto)[10]
  • Liu Yang River 浏阳河
  • A Hundred Birds Paying Respect to the Phoenix 百鸟朝凤. This piece, composed by Wang in 1973, is based on melodies from the Shandong, Anhui, Henan, and Hebei provinces of East China. They were originally arranged for the suona, a Chinese wind instrument, by the renowned suona player, Ren Tongxiang (born 1927). Considered one of the six representative twentieth-century Chinese piano masterpieces and exemplifying his ability to integrate the ornamental tones, chromaticism, and pentantonic scales of traditional Chinese music with Western piano tradition, Wang's version remains very popular in China and has been the subject of several critical commentaries by Chinese musicologists.[3]
  • Silver Clouds Chasing the Moon 彩云追月 (also known as The Moon Chased by the Colourful Clouds). This was one of pieces played and discussed by the Chinese pianist Lang-Lang on the British television series Music Room. Lang Lang also played the piece in his 2009 concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.[11]
  • Glowing Red Morningstar Lilies 山丹丹花开红艳艳
  • Three Variations of the Plum Blossom Melody 樱花. Composed in 1972, the work is based on a piece from the Tang dynasty (618 - 907 A.D.) and was originally composed for the Guqin, a seven-stringed instrument of the zither family.[8]
  • Ding Shan-de: Children's Suite 儿童组曲 (I. Going to the Suburb, II. Butterfly Chasing, III. Jumping Rope, IV. Hide and Seek, V. Holiday Dance)
  • Five Yunnan Folk Songs 云南民歌五首. Performed by Li Yundi in his 2008 concert at Carnegie Hall.[12]
  • Evening Song of a Fishing Boat. Dedicated to William Goldenberg, Chair of the Piano Department of Northern Illinois University, the piece received its world premiere in 2013 in a concert at Carnegie Hall by Yao Lin.[13]


  1. ^ a b "The Music of the Film - Above the Drowning Sea". Above the Drowning Sea.
  2. ^ a b Lian, Liu (9 September 2013). "Saluting a living legend: modern piano composer Wang Jianzhong". China Daily. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b Chong, Eddy K. M. (2010). "Beyond birdsongs and the five notes: Teaching with Wang Jianzhong's Bai Niao Chao Feng". Proceedings of the 29th World Conference of the International Society for Music Education, pp. 38-42. ISBN 978-0-9806310-0-5. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  4. ^ China Musicology (2009). 王建中简介 (Wang Jianzhong Introduction). Retrieved 4 December 2013 (in Chinese).
  5. ^ Opus3 Artists. Peng-Peng Gong. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  6. ^ The Living Composers Project. Sheng, Bright. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  7. ^ National Centre for the Performing Arts (2012). Jenny Q Chai Piano Recital. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  8. ^ a b Chen, Xi (2012). Chinese Piano Music: An Approach to performance, pp. 42-43. Doctoral Dissertation, Louisiana State University. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  9. ^ Zhang, Shi-gu (1993). Chinese and Western influences upon piano music in China, pp. 55-61. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Arizona. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  10. ^ With the exception of Red Flag Road, all pieces in this list are for solo piano.
  11. ^ Cité de la Musique. Médiathèque: Colorful clouds chasing the moon. Retrieved 4 December 2013 (in French).
  12. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (12 October 2008). "A Little Sturm und Drang Leavens the Usual Pianism ". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  13. ^ Daily Chronicle (23 May 2013). "Local pianist headed to Carnegie Hall". Retrieved 4 December 2013.