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Chen Yi: Momentum / Shui, Lin, Hou, Marshall, Singapore So


Release Date: 09/30/2003 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1352   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Chen Yi
Performer:  Lin Cho-LiangKimberly MarshallYi-Jia Susanne Hou
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


This release, alongside the recent Albany Records performance of her Cello Concerto, has convinced me that Chen Yi is a truly gifted composer of wide ranging expressiveness, with a distinctive voice. Not everything on this disc rises to the same level (a matter of individual taste in any case), but there's no question that Chen has something to say and abundant means at her disposal with which to say it. The more obviously folk-influenced works have something in common with Bartók, at least to the extent that Chen's recourse to popular idioms never compromises her modernity or personal style, and that's saying a lot considering the fact that she's working within a musical tradition in which
Read more tacky and sentimental "Orientalism" often produces the musical equivalent of a cute little Chinese parasol atop a very Western cocktail.


The Chinese Folk Dance Suite, a violin concerto in all but name, has the same rugged integrity as Bartók's Dance Suite, and its earthy, vigorous outer movements project a passionate strength that (as with Bartók) sounds far truer to Chen's original sources of inspiration than many more highly refined efforts. Similarly, the Dunhuang Fantasy for organ and chamber wind ensemble, after a grindingly dissonant opening for the soloist, settles down to what brings to mind the opening of The Miraculous Mandarin, with whooping brass and a leaping, two-note figure very close to the titular character's own leitmotif. By contrast, Romance and Dance is sweetly lyrical but never cloying, and all three soloists play with commitment and care, particularly violinist Cho-Liang Lin in the suite.


Momentum is 13 minutes of very effective orchestration, perhaps recalling Varèse but in a style very much Chen's own, with its characteristic opposition of very high violins and very low brass and percussion. The music's overall curve of tension and release is very well plotted, and particular credit must go to the violin section of the Singapore Symphony for phrasing some very long and expressively rich unison passages with particular confidence and unanimity. A passionate string threnody also figures prominently as the central musical idea of Tu, though here I find the musical tension less well sustained after the violent opening, despite some evocative writing for the harp. On the other hand this dark and angry work, dedicated to the New York firefighters who died on 9/11, is about a million times more effective than John Adams' tribute to that terrible day, and Chen's emotional directness and lack of pretense is very refreshing.


As suggested above, the performances sound uniformly excellent, with the music's intensity and lyrical eloquence well sustained, while the sonics are simply tremendous. I also feel I must share with you a very interesting experience with this disc that I had just before writing this review. Ordinarily I would add my usual caution about the music's comparatively high level of dissonance and occasionally athematic textures not being for all tastes, but it happened that a friend of mine was over as I was listening to this for the third or fourth time, and he enjoyed it hugely. He isn't into classical music at all but nevertheless found much of Chen's work very exciting and ear-catching (particularly the percussion fusillades in Momentum and Tu), and so it is. Perhaps I more accurately should say that it's not for "refined" tastes, and that strong music sometimes demands strong ears. So try this and give yours a good workout. It can only be healthy. [5/26/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Momentum by Chen Yi
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
2.
Chinese Folk Dance Suite for Violin and Orchestra by Chen Yi
Performer:  Lin Cho-Liang (Violin)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Fantasy for Organ and Wind Ensemble "Dunhuang" by Chen Yi
Performer:  Kimberly Marshall (Organ)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Romance and Dance for 2 Violins and Strings by Chen Yi
Performer:  Yi-Jia Susanne Hou (Violin), Lin Cho-Liang (Violin)
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
5.
Tu by Chen Yi
Conductor:  Lan Shui
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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