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East Meets West - Clarinet Music By Chinese Composers

Chen / Sheng / Qian / Mcwilliams
Release Date: 11/13/2012 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1377  
Composer:  Mei-Chun ChenBright ShengGao HongChen Yi,   ... 
Performer:  Jun QianKent McwilliamsSara BaumbauerGao Hong,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

EAST MEETS WEST Jun Qian (cl 1-5 ); Sara Baumbauer (cl 3 ); Kent McWilliams (pn 1,4,5 ); Gao Hong (pipa 4 ); David Carter (vc 4,5 ); Francesca Anderegg (vn 5 ) ALBANY 1377 (67:51)

Read more class="COMPOSER12">MEI-CHUN CHEN 1 Suite Antigua. BRIGHT SHENG 2 A Tune from Childhood. 3 Little Cabbage. GAO HONG 4 Nostalgia. CHEN YI 1 Chinese Ancient Dances. 2 Monologue: Impressions on the True Story of Ah Q. SHIH-HUI CHEN 1 Fantasia on the Theme of Plum Blossoms. MING-HSIU YEN 2 The Beam of Light. 5 Lego City

A collection of clarinet music by Chinese-born composers, “East Meets West” might sound like a niche release, and I suppose it still would take a fairly adventurous spirit to pick this CD up out of the blue and give it a listen. Even so, I feel that it has been put together with the average listener in mind. The music is varied and appealing, and the performances come from the top shelf.

Although all six of the composers were born in China, all of them also have studied or worked in the United States, and to different degrees, all of the works on this disc synthesize Western and Eastern styles. Some, such as Mei-Chun Chen’s Suite Antigua, sound almost entirely Western. In fact, the second movement draws from Ravel’s La Valse , which will startle listeners not expecting it. More in the middle of the East-West continuum is Gao Hong’s Nostalgia in which the traditional Chinese pipa is added to the ensemble of clarinet, piano, and cello. Hong plays the lute-like pipa herself on this CD. The material itself is not folk-derived, however. The title refers to homesickness, and also happy memories of one’s homeland. Hong packs many ideas and emotions into this six-minute piece.

Chinese folk material is represented in this recital as well. Both of the works by Bright Sheng are based on Chinese folk styles, with an actual folk song used as the basis for Little Cabbage . This latter work is a duet for clarinets, one in E? (Jun Qian) and the other in B? (Sara Baumbauer), and the combination of the two is quite interesting. Three of the works in this recital ( A Tune from Childhood, Monologue , and The Beam of Light ) are for solo clarinet. The strength of the writing is such that listeners—well, this listener anyway—do not long to hear contrasting timbres, and the music holds one’s interest.

Jun Qian has studied at Baylor and Eastman, and he has been on the faculty at several American universities. He is a flexible, communicative musician who can evoke a variety of moods with his clarinet. Pianist Kent McWilliams excels in both the songful and the spiky aspects of this program. The supporting musicians do fine work as well. Albany’s engineering is excellent, and I really like how the booklet is in both English and Chinese. This release shows that we have come far enough in our musical development that no special pleading is necessary for Chinese composers, and the “Yellow River Concerto” no longer needs to be held up as an exemplar of Chinese classical music.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Suite Antigua by Mei-Chun Chen
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet), Kent Mcwilliams (Piano)
A Tune from Childhood by Bright Sheng
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet)
Little Cabbage by Bright Sheng
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet), Sara Baumbauer (Clarinet)
Nostalgia by Gao Hong
Performer:  Gao Hong (Pipa), Jun Qian (Clarinet), David Carter (Cello),
Kent Mcwilliams (Piano)
Chinese Ancient Dances by Chen Yi
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet), Kent Mcwilliams (Piano)
Monologue (Impression on "The True Story of Ah Q"), for solo clarinet by Chen Yi
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1993 
Fantasia on the Theme of Plum Blossom by Shih-Hui Chen
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet), Kent Mcwilliams (Piano)
The Beam of Light by Ming-Hsiu Yen
Performer:  Jun Qian (Clarinet)
Lego City by Ming-Hsiu Yen
Performer:  Kent Mcwilliams (Piano), Jun Qian (Clarinet), Francesca Anderegg (Violin),
David Carter (Cello)

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