Born in 1923, Yan studied conducting in his native city of Wuhan under Xian in 1938. In 1940, Yan, at age 17, acquired the full score of Xian’s Yellow River Cantata, and conducted it in Chongqing with his own Children Theatre chorus.
From 1940 to his last performance of the Yellow River Cantata in 2015, he did full justice to his teacher and the masterpiece with some 1,000 performances under his baton. A few stood out for their historic significance.
The 1985 performance featuring a 1,000-strong combined force from 28 local choirs at Hong Kong Coliseum was one. The 15,000-chorister performance in Guangzhou 10 years later was another record.
But none was as grim and breath-taking as the Beijing performance in 1975 when Yan took the risk of resurrecting the Yellow River Cantata, which was then banned in favour of the piano concerto version, during the decade-long Cultural Revolution.
Yan resumed full duty after the ordeal and became the Head of the Central Philharmonic Society in 1982. A reform in 1996 that scrapped the old orchestra and chorus for the new China National Symphony Orchestra broke his heart. He refused to conduct the new orchestra for over ten years until the chorus was reinstated.
In 2015, Yan conducted his signature piece for the last time celebrate the dual 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the death of his mentor Xian Xinghai. The secret of harnessing the artistic adrenalin of choristers is now a thing of the past but will not be forgotten by those who made music with him.
周光蓁 Oliver Chou
嚴良堃 Mr Yan Liang Kun
永遠名譽音樂總監 Life Honorary Music Director
以《黃河大合唱》權威演逾半世紀的中國合唱指揮嚴良堃，音樂感染力驚人的一代宗師，晚年仍活力十足 2014年以名礜音樂總監身份，來港參加明儀合唱團的周年音樂會。 從講座、排練到演出全程投入，樂此不疲。