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Ge Gan-ru - Chinese Rhapsody

Release Date: 05/31/2005 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1509   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Margaret Leng Tan
Conductor:  José Serebrier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Sino-American composer Ge Gan-ru writes in an immediately identifiable, intriguingly personal style. On the one hand, you find passages based on texture and timbre using various avant-garde playing techniques and sonority in the manner of say, George Crumb. This means of course that they aren't really that "avant" at all, having been around for the past four or five decades, but what matters is Ge's confident use of them. In contrast to these, he offers lovely, lyrical episodes based on simple, consonant harmonies in gently pulsating strings, often with beautiful solos for oboe or horn and
Read more punctuated by isolated interjections from the percussion section. Lastly, there is a vigorous rhythmic element, led by virtuoso fusillades from the generously endowed percussion battery (which may include Chinese and well as Western instruments).

This, then, is the basic mix, but it doesn't describe just how alternately exciting and ravishing this music is, nor does it suggest Ge's ability to organize his materials in such a way as to suggest a clear formal balance and evolving musical argument, qualities often missing from much contemporary music. It's also worth noting that the purely textural passages, also unlike much contemporary music, have an evocative beauty all their own, partly the result of imaginative use of harp and string sonorities, and that Ge's language is capable of a wide range of expression. The moods in Chinese Rhapsody, for example, run the gamut from nostalgic to ferocious, and even find room for touches of witty woodwind writing toward the work's center. The next piece on the disc, Wu (never mind what it means; it doesn't matter), takes this same idiom and reinterprets it in terms of a piano concerto, as a dialogue between soloist and orchestra, with the piano played both conventionally and with various timbre-altering devices in and on the strings.

Six Pentatonic Tunes reveals the composer's ability to relax and write excellent light music, full of warmth and humor, very much in the vein of Tveitt's Hardanger folk song settings or Skalkottas' Greek Dances. In other words, Ge treats his melodies with respect but also manages to create highly sophisticated and harmonically piquant settings that enhance their character without smothering it. This, by the way, is not an easy task, and it says something about his artistry that Ge manages the job so deftly. I am sure that he must also be quite satisfied with these very exciting performances. Absent a score, I wouldn't bet money on whether those snap pizzicatos roughly 7 or 8 minutes into the Chinese Rhapsody are quite together or not, but under José Serebrier's leadership the Royal Scottish National Orchestra responds with great brilliance and enthusiasm, and it goes without saying that contemporary music specialist Margaret Leng Tan, for whom the solo part of Wu was written, plays it as well as anyone possibly can.

State-of-the-art sonics, whether in stereo or SACD multichannel format, complete a compelling portrait of a vital, vibrant creative voice. I have to say that, speaking personally, I'm a bit fed up with composers (whether Oriental or Occidental) exploiting the East/West nationalist angle with such tiresome regularity. I suppose if the quality of the results were higher, it would be a different matter, but as it stands this trend bores me. More often than not it simply provides a smokescreen behind which we find idioms that are expressively limited, superficial, and predictable. I'm not naming names, but you should have no problem creating your own list. Ge Gan-ru, on the other hand, deserves your consideration. What certainly does not bore me is imaginative, well-written music of any stripe, and that is exactly what we have here. This guy's for real.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Chinese Rhapsody by Ge Gan-Ru
Conductor:  José Serebrier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 21 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Notes: Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland (10/13/2003 - 10/14/2003) 
Wu for Piano and Orchestra by Ge Gan-Ru
Performer:  Margaret Leng Tan (Piano)
Conductor:  José Serebrier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 24 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland (10/13/2003 - 10/14/2003) 
Pentatonic Tunes (6) by Ge Gan-Ru
Conductor:  José Serebrier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland 
Length: 14 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Notes: Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland (10/13/2003 - 10/15/2003) 

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