Yu Lina Tells Her Story with The Butterfly Lovers' Concerto


On May 7th, Yu Lina, a world-famous violinist renowned for her masterful playing of the violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers, was invited to ECNU to give a speech entitled “Stories of ‘The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto”. Combining interpretation and demonstration, she shared with ECNUers some touching stories behind the violin concerto at the Minhang Campus’ University Concert Hall.

Combining interpretation and demonstration, Yu tells her story withThe Butterfly Lovers’ violin concerto.

Featuring melancholy melodies,The Butterfly Lovers’violin concerto is one of the most recognizable music pieces in China and has drawn much attention from audiences home and abroad. Its first performer, Yu Lina, has become a household name since she first played the concerto on stage.

Yu still recalls every detail about her first performance of the concerto 56 years before, which ended with prolonged applause. Since then, Yu’s name has been closely connected with The Butterfly Lovers, and the piece has become inscribed upon her soul in the form of music.

Yu plays the violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers.  

Using classic Chinese violin pieces such asThe Flower and the Youth, Raising up Step by Step, andThe Moon Over a Fountainas examples, she introduced the background to the composition of The Butterfly Lovers.

Violin was not well received by Chinese people in the early 1950s when Yu was a student at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Yu said, “As a traditional western musical instrument with over four centuries’ history, the violin itself shouldn’t bear responsibility for not being popular in China. It rests with us to add a Chinese touch to it.” Hoping to accomplish this goal through innovation, Yu and her classmates collaborated to produce the violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers.

Yu’s vivid and humorous interpretation is greeted periodically with enthusiastic applause by the audience.  

“It is the violin concertoThe Butterfly Loversthat has made the Chinese accept the violin, a western instrument, and the western music community accept Chinese culture,” said Yu.

Based on the traditional Chinese love tragedy of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the concerto includes elements of the traditional Chinese drama woven in throughout the piece. An excellent demonstration of the combining of Chinese culture with western music, the concerto has touched millions of listeners in and out of China and has become one of the most classic violin concertos in the world since it was first played by Yu in public in 1959.

Yu is very popular with the audience.

After introducing the background of the concerto’s creation, Yu continued her explanation while playing the violin. Her performance was so vigorous and elegant that the audience could not believe her to be 74 years old. Yu’s vivid and humorous interpretation was greeted periodically with enthusiastic applause by the audience throughout the program, while her wonderful performance of the concerto even moved some audience members to tears.


East China Normal University