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The Spring Festival Overture is a work strongly influenced by the efforts of Xian Xinghai – composer of the Yellow River Cantata on which the famous Yellow River Concerto is based – to interpret Chinese folk music in Western musical styles. It was composed in 1955-1956 by Li Huanzhi, who studied at the Lu Xun College of the Arts while Xian Xinghai was directing the music program there. The Spring Festival of the title is the Chinese New Year, and the themes of this overture come from folk music from the Shanbei region. Like the Yellow River Concerto, it exists in various versions, some employing more traditional Chinese instruments than others. A recording of the Spring Festival Overture was sent into space with China’s first moon probe in 2007; other music sent out on the probe included “Ode to the Yellow River” and “The East Is Red.”

— John Henken