Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


School of Music

Document Type



The Yellow River Piano Concerto remains as one of a few representative and major instrumental compositions within the Chinese repertoire since it was composed in 1969. Thanks to the devoted work of Chinese pianists, the Yellow River Piano Concerto has disseminated around the world and has become a musical symbol of Chinese culture in recent years. This piano concerto serves as a tool for the cultural communication between China and the world. The Yellow River Piano Concerto has a unique ability to depict Chinese culture and history through the language of music. Its exotic pentatonic melodies and eastern orchestrations make the entire concerto affective and revolutionary. With both eastern and western characteristics, the Yellow River Piano Concerto holds a distinct position within world music. Surprisingly, this concerto was composed by a group of Chinese composers during a special time period in Chinese history—the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The concerto itself is also a transcription of the Yellow River Cantata, which was composed by Chinese composer Sinn Sing Hoi in 1939. After the Great Cultural Revolution, the Yellow River Piano Concerto was banned for a few years in China; once it was allowed to be performed on stage again by the government, it ushered in a new spring of its artistic life. This monograph will examine the history of the Yellow River Piano Concerto, provide an analysis of its form and tonal and harmonic structure, drawing on its eastern and western aspects, and will discuss its reception and performance tradition.

Committee Chair

Gurt, Michael