For the Love of the Butterfly Lovers Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra Cultural Centre Concert Hall Reviewed: January 7 The name of the concert fails to reflect the importance of the event, which was the world premiere of Chinese Music Suite No1. The more than 40-minute orchestral work places 51-year- old Macau Orchestra maestro Shao En in the league of such conductor-composers as Leonard Bernstein and Andre Previn. Commissioned in 2003 by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the work is in four movements inspired by the four famous Chinese occasions of sorrow, joy, parting and reunion. Shao, a devout Christian, blended traditional Chinese values with the western religious beliefs about life's frailty and the eventual reunion with God. Shao's grasp of the Chinese instrumental idiom is impressively displayed by the use of the egg-shaped flute in Sorrow, and the piercing sound of the suona, the Chinese oboe, in the louder passages of Joy and Reunion. The bass line built by the lower strings in the funeral march in Parting is reminiscent of Gustav Mahler's First Symphony, whereas the exultant Reunion is as effective as The Gate of the Kiev by Modest Mussorgsky. The use of Tibetan and Mongolian folklore in the work is ingenious. Yet it's the overall symphonic power that Shao drew from the players, particularly the extended percussion section and the strings, that excelled. Chinese violinist Xie Nan (below) delivered a technically solid Butterfly Lovers concerto, a Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet, despite drawbacks in the transcription from the original western scores. The soloist's aggression on the violin highlighted the uncompromising character of Zhu Yingtai, the Chinese Juliet, against the inevitable. But the work was marred by the inherent problems in orchestral transcription. The tutti lacked power, and the high-pitch sounds such as the dizi often interfered with the violin solo. Xie asserted her presence by choosing a Paganini caprice as an encore. The Chinese Orchestra was at its best during the Ancient Capital, which opened the concert. Under Shao's baton, the performance was disciplined, with rich symphonic effects. The melodic line was clean, and the harmonies generated a nostalgic mood. But it was the Lunar New Year encore piece, Happiness, that sent everyone home smiling.