WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Chinese Classics - Ge Gan-Ru, Fall of Baghdad / Modern Works

Release Date: 06/30/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570603   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Airi YoshiokaMadeleine ShapiroVeronica SalasMayuki Fukuhara
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Modern Works
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $12.99
CD:  $11.49
In Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

GE GAN-RU String Quartets: No. 1, “Fu”; No. 4, “Angel Suite”; No. 5, “Fall of Baghdad” ModernWorks NAXOS 8.570603 (60:44)

Prior to this review I’d read a short profile of the composer in the Times , and discovered for a substantial period of time he’d dropped out of sight to found a business that now Read more supports him and allows him freedom to compose as he wishes. As such, he may be the “Chinese Charles Ives.” Whatever the reason, these three string quartets show his evolution over that time gap, with No. 1 from 1983, and Nos. 4 and 5 from 1998 and 2007, respectively.

No. 1, “Fu” (Prose Poem), is in a single movement, and while it uses a number of special techniques for strings, the influence of middle-period Bartók is most evident, at least to my ear. This was radical music in context for a young Chinese composer, but not necessarily for the outside world. But No. 4, “Angel Suite,” is an exceedingly rich and original piece. In a way, it shouldn’t be, as it references the Western classical tradition most overtly, and indeed has a strong scent of the last fin de siècle. But though I hear Debussy very strongly throughout (above all in the first movement), its movements—including a dark waltz and similarly unsettling march—remain so full of interesting ideas and details that a strong personality cannot help but emerge. I found this music totally engaging, with a “postmodern” take that was never ironic, facile, or pastichesque.

No. 5 is subtitled “The Fall of Baghdad.” In its reference to destruction “in time of war,” it’s an homage to George Crumb’s 1970 Black Angels, and it opens with similarly wrenching, screeching sounds. The second movement features an extended, distant viola melody that recalls a muzzein’s call to prayer, which after an interlude of sinister rhythms using col legno and pizzicato, returns to the stratosphere. The third, “Desolation,” has a heartrending violin solo over pianissimo chords that suggest the classic “voice crying in the wilderness.” (No more so than when dark crunching sounds are ripped from behind the instruments’ bridges.) While the work starts out a little too reminiscent of its inspiration, like all the works on this program, Ge is in the details. It takes a little time, but a new, personal music emerges without any enormous technical or stylistic breakthrough; this is actually an enormous accomplishment. And lest I sound too technical, the music’s conclusion is shattering. We’ve got real art here.

ModernWorks is a string quartet directed by cellist Madeline Shapiro. (The other players are Airi Yoshioka and Majuki Fukuhara, violins, and Veronica Salas, viola.) They interpret this music brilliantly, and they have done great service to music by advocating this creator. I hope this recording finds a large audience, or at least the right audience. This composer has something to say, and staying power.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
Read less

Works on This Recording

String Quartet No. 1 'Fu' (Prose Poem) by Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Airi Yoshioka (Violin), Madeleine Shapiro (Cello), Veronica Salas (Viola),
Mayuki Fukuhara (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Modern Works
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984; China 
Length: 11 Minutes 35 Secs. 
String Quartet No. 4 'Angel Suite' by Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Airi Yoshioka (Violin), Mayuki Fukuhara (Violin), Veronica Salas (Viola),
Madeleine Shapiro (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Modern Works
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; China 
1. Cherub
2. Gnomes
3. Prayer
4. Angel's March
String Quartet No. 5 'Fall of Baghdad' by Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Airi Yoshioka (Violin), Mayuki Fukuhara (Violin), Veronica Salas (Viola),
Madeleine Shapiro (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Modern Works
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2005; China 
1. Abyss: Screaming - Living Hell - Barbaric March - Abyss - Threnody
2. Music From Heaven: Pilgrimage - Bazaar - Caliph's Drum - Music from Heaven
3. Desolation: Desolation - Weeping - Moaning - Keening

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title