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Ung: Seven Mirrors, Etc / Cheng, Gray, Et Al

Release Date: 02/22/2005 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80619   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Chinary Ung
Performer:  Meade CraneSean OsbornWalter GrayElla Marie Gray,   ... 
Conductor:  Harvey Sollberger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  QuakeLa Jolla Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This may be only the second disc devoted to the music of Cambodian-born composer Chinary Ung, but even over a span of nine years, it seems to pick up where the earlier release left off. The previous CRI disc introduced Ung’s colorful blend of Asian and Western styles and his own organizational concept of a musical spiral—that is, a fluctuating mosaic of motifs, timbres, and gestures that suggests both audible shape and spontaneous details simultaneously. Grand Spiral, originally written for and recorded by symphonic band, is here orchestrated and given the subtitle “Desert Flowers Bloom.” This new version wears its jazzy inferences with more subtlety; the initial echoes of Gershwin and Ravel now swirl among glimmering, groaning instrumental Read more colors equally reminiscent of Debussy and Varése. The same rhythmically insistent figures strike the ear, as motifs briefly coalesce into themes and whirl apart again, providing a dramatic sense of motion, if not necessarily movement toward an ultimate resolution or goal. The similarly conceived but more modest proportions of Spiral VI, for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, allow dance rhythms and folk/modal tunes to emerge from the eddy, in this case sounding somewhat impressionistic and less tonally experimental.

There’s even more impressionism at play in the solo piano suite Seven Mirrors, where titles taken from the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore and 13th-century mystical poet Rumi are applied to each compact movement. Alternately tranquil and exuberant, these accessible vignettes are not far from Debussy’s sound world, notwithstanding the use of pentatonic melodies and animated rhythms. By way of contrast, the most “exotic” music occurs in Grand Alap. An “alap” is the slow introductory section of an Indian raga; here the term seems to relate to the free (irregular) rhythmic correspondence of the two instrumentalists (cellist and percussionist) and the manner in which they imply various emotional states through exaggerated vocal utterances, as well as broad, non-Western musical gestures. Just as the percussionist, alternating between pitched and unpitched instruments, alludes to the tabla and gamelan, the cellist incorporates fragmented phrases, percussive effects, microtones, and slides to heighten the cross-cultural drama. While much of the ritualistic fervor of the performance remains audible, a key visual component is of course lost on disc, which is perhaps why the participants ignored the composer’s request for a female cellist and male percussionist—or perhaps they were making a cross-gender statement of their own.

The performers sound thoroughly committed to Ung’s unconventional yet attractive soundscape. Both this and the earlier CRI release are recommended to fans of music off the beaten path.

Art Lange, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Spiral VI by Chinary Ung
Performer:  Meade Crane (Piano), Sean Osborn (Clarinet), Walter Gray (Cello),
Ella Marie Gray (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quake
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/15/2002 
Venue:  Warren Studios, San Diego, California 
Length: 10 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Seven Mirrors by Chinary Ung
Performer:  Gloria Cheng (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/15/2002 
Venue:  Warren Studios, San Diego, California 
Length: 21 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Grand Alap by Chinary Ung
Performer:  Rob Tucker (Percussion), Walter Gray (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 11/15/2002 
Venue:  Warren Studios, San Diego, California 
Length: 15 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Grand Spiral by Chinary Ung
Conductor:  Harvey Sollberger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Jolla Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/09/2002 
Venue:  Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD, San Diego 
Length: 13 Minutes 58 Secs. 

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