Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang.
Enrique Diemecke, cond;
Sharon Beazly (fl); Castile-Leon SO
BIS 1779 (64:00)
There is nothing to hear on this otherwise compelling release to support the often quoted suggestion that Ge Gan-ru is “China’s first avant-garde composer.” Perhaps it is a question of both relative style and circumstance; Ge, who was born in Shanghai in 1954 and started his
musical life on the violin, spent his teenage years in an agricultural camp during the Cultural Revolution. In those dreadful days, such intellectual and esthetic pursuits as violin playing were actually dangerous, but Ge survived that experience with his love for music intact, and went on to study at the post-Mao era Shanghai Conservatory and, finally, at Columbia University, where he was a student of the godfather of modern Chinese music, Chou Weng-chung, as well as the great Mario Davidovsky.
The two large-scale compositions on this CD are not, in any way, avant-garde, and unless they simply do not represent the rest of Ge’s output (I am not familiar with it), the suggestion is ridiculous. His teacher, Chou, is far more adventuresome, in a harmonic and structural sense. That’s okay. Let’s take Ge’s music for what it is; big-scaled, highly Romantic, and, as the titles indicate, dramatic and even cinematic in the way it follows a literary narrative. Both
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang
are based on Chinese legends that are millennia old. Ge follows the programmatic contours of the tales with a strong hand, vivid and blustery as called for, and gentle and lyrical as the story line requires.
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang
is structured as a flute concerto, with the soloist taking on the role of the protagonist.
The performances by this regional Spanish orchestra, here guest conducted by the emerging Mexican Enrique Diemecke, render this material in lusty, beautifully paced washes of sound, and Sharon Beazly, a great champion of new music for the flute, brings her character to life with a touchingly theatrical panache. Frankly, I was not prepared to like this music, but the honest expressivity and exceptional symphonic craft of Ge Gan-ru won me over.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
Works on This Recording
Lovers Besieged by Ge Gan-Ru
Castilla y León Symphony Orchestra
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang: I. Savage Land
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang: II. Gourd Girl
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang: III. Abduction
Fairy Lady Meng Jiang: IV. Crying Down the Great Wall
Lovers Besieged Suite: I. Ambush
Lovers Besieged Suite: II. Chu Song
Lovers Besieged Suite: III. Sword Dance
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