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American Record Guide.This music speaks a language that
communicates like little else I have heard lately.

January 31, 2011


American Record Guide. February 2011

Chinese Recorder Concertos
TANG: Fei Ge; SHENG: Flute Moon; MA: Bamboo
Flute Concerto; CHEN: The Ancient Chinese Beauty
Michala Petri;Copenhagen Philharmonicl Lan Shui

OUR 6220603
71 minutes

Tang Jianping (b 1955), Sheng Bright (b 1955), Ma Shui-long (b 1939), and Chen Yi (b 1953) will be new to some readers; others will know they want this music right away. Here we have today's foremost recorder soloist in four major contemporary pieces, with a very capable Chinese-born conductor at the helm.

Two of these composers, Sheng and Chen, have settled in the United States, while Tang
has prospered in China and Ma in Taiwan. Their careers were inevitably colored by politics. In the 1960s and 70s, mainland China and Taiwan experienced cultural revolutions that purged intellectuals and Western culture. The arts were thence to express not the ideas of free individuals, but the ideology of the state. When universities reopened in 1978, Tang, Chen, and Sheng were among the first classes to be admitted at conservatories in Shenyang, Beijing, and Shanghai. Ma, somewhat older than the rest, studied music theory and composition at the National Taiwan Academy of the Arts from 1959 to 1964 and then pursued additional studies in West Germany.

This music speaks for itself. It is difficult to believe that these Oriental panoramas were
recorded in Copenhagen. Tang's piece ranks with the most interesting music I have ever heard. His concerto communicates with all the clarity of American film music, but none of the cheapness. Part III has the energy of perky Bernstein or perhaps music from The Simpsons-pure energy, but genuine quality, and a big, big ending. Sheng's Flute Moon consists of 'Chi Lin's Dance' and 'Flute Moon'. 'Chi Lin's Dance' is a somewhat aggressive march with lots of timpani followed by a movement twice its length and much quieter.
Ma's Bamboo Flute Concerto opens with a measured tread that sounds German; but soon
we encounter piping, and the tempo takes off in a more Chinese-sounding style. There is a
fascinating cadenza in the first movement, and Petri also gets a workout in the Finale. Ma's is the only work to use traditional Italian movement titles. Chen uses the most extended sound palette of the four composers, and her piece has the most difficult solo part. In its orientation toward sound, this writing is more like Crumb and Gubaidulina. The piece seems to invite choreography. For that matter, dance companies could well consider presenting any of these works.

The performances are laden with vitality and splendor. Everyone seems to be giving 110%. The impression this creates is due in part to extraordinary sound. Louds are very
loud on this recording, and a passage in the Sheng is barely audible. As for Petri's playing, pick the superlatives of your choice; they should all apply. The recorder is not a loud instrument, but I can only imagine Petri commanding the stage as she plays it. To judge by the results presented here, conductor Lan Shui is excellent. He studied at the Shanghai Conservatory (composition) and Beijing Central Conservatory (conducting) before gaining further experience in the United States. He has been chief conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic since 2007 and has 16 CDs to his credit.
There are 19 pages of English notes and 9 in Chinese. This music speaks a language that
communicates like little else I have heard lately.

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