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BACH-coverfron-sRGB.jpg So it's well-placed to convey the essence of this world.

November 30, 2010

Mark Sealey

The style of music in this selection with which most non-aficionados of Chinese music will be most familiar is to be found on Chinese Recorder Concertos (OUR Recordings 6.220603), where Michala Petri plays recorder in four modern concerti with The Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lan Shui. Fei Ge ("Flying Song") by Tang Jianping, who was born in 1955 contains much beautiful and atmospheric music with many Western orchestral techniques, though has the aura at times of film music. The best known of these composer is Bright Sheng (b.1955), who has lived in the United States since 1982 and is a member of the faculty at the University of Michigan. His Flute Moon is in two movements and driven by dance rhythms and Stravinsky an insistence on forward movement.
More conventionally Chinese-sounding are the two works, the "Bamboo Flute Concerto" by the oldest of the composers represented here, Ma Shui-long (born in 1939) and "The Ancient Chinese Beauty" by Chen Yi (the only woman composer, born in 1953 and a classmate of Bright Sheng at the Beijing Central Conservatory in the late 1970s after the end of the Cultural Revolution). In all cases the playing of Petri is impeccable, though she is not recorded so closely as to afford us a clear hearing of all the nuances written for the recorder. That's a pity. The orchestration, skillful though it is, swamps the recorder, especially in the louder passages. At times – in the work by Tang Jianping, in particular – there is little except some vaguely modal writing and an emphasis on the more plangent tones of which the solo instrument is capable to suggest a thoroughly Chinese métier. But this should not be seen as a drawback: the composers' aims were specifically to blend Eastern and Western traditions, using melodies and musical theories from China with techniques of orchestration and instrumentation from the West. To that end this CD can be taken very much at face value and not necessarily as an entrée into to Chinese music. This CD does consciously represent a push to make the traditions of the older musical culture available and enjoyable to Western audiences. The recorder's gentle and expressive qualities and sound approach so closely the natural breath rhythms of human beings (listen to the slower passages in Flute Moon [tr.5], for example). So it's well-placed to convey the essence of this world. And all the more so when in Petri's hands. Mark Sealey.

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