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Harmonious Breath / Claude Delangle, En Shao, Taipei Orchestra

Delangle / Tco / Shao
Release Date: 05/24/2011 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1790  
Composer:  Yiu-Kwong ChungTraditionalLeilei Tian
Performer:  Claude Delangle
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



YIU-KWONG CHUNG Saxophone Concertos: No. 1; No. 2. LEILEI TIAN Open Secret. TRADITIONAL River of Sorrow. Sunshine on Taxkorgan Claude Delangle (alt sax, sop sax); En Shao, cond; Taipei Chinese O BIS 1790 (74:32)


Titled Harmonious Breath , this innovative CD is a collection of concertante works for soprano or alto saxophone and Read more Chinese orchestra. “What,” I hear you asking, “is a Chinese orchestra?” It is a concept that originated in the previous century, and it involves the use of traditional Chinese instruments in a Western orchestral layout. There is a bowed-string section (comprised largely of the fiddle-like erhu and its family), a plucked-string section (the pipa, the liuqin, and so on), a wind section (bamboo flutes, mouth organs, shawms), timpani, and an array of Chinese percussion instruments. The Taipei Chinese Orchestra was founded in 1979, and is Taiwan’s first professional orchestra of its type. Composer Yiu-Kwong Chung, who wrote two of the concertos included here, is its general director. The group departs slightly from tradition in its inclusion of Western cellos and double basses, in place of the more authentic gehu and diyingehu, but I suspect that won’t matter to most listeners.


This CD was preceded by Whirling Dance (BIS 1759), a collection of works for flute (played by Sharon Bezaly) and the orchestra. Apparently, follow-up discs are planned involving this ensemble and trombonist Christian Lindberg, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. On the strength of the present release, I am sorry to have missed Bezaly’s disc—I don’t think it was reviewed in Fanfare —and I plan to catch up with it.


In the meantime, Harmonious Breath gets two thumbs up from me. The idea of combining the saxophone—not a very old instrument, really—with traditional instruments that go back centuries is daring. The saxophone, however, is similar to the Chinese guanzi, an oboe-like instrument that also uses a single reed. Furthermore, soloist Claude Delangle studied traditional phrasing with guanzi master Guoying Li. Also, composer Leilei Tian points out that the saxophone “is the only Western wind instrument which with ease produces the glissandi that are almost indispensable to Chinese music.” In short, this is a daring idea that nevertheless has been well thought out, and is underpinned with good logic.


There’s little sense of hearing Western music here; the language is excitingly foreign. Still, one feels that the works have been assembled by composers with an understanding of Western form. Indeed, Leilei Tian studied composition in Sweden and France, and Yiu-Kwong Chung, originally a percussionist, studied at City University of New York with Robert Starer. In other words, the Western ear is beguiled, but the Western intellect is supplied with a frame of reference it can recognize, and the results are more approachable than traditional Chinese music might be to many Western listeners. The two concertos by Yiu-Kwong Chung, with their almost shocking array of colors, will be most immediately appealing. The second of the two is even in three movements; the last of these verges on klezmer à la Chinois , if you can imagine such a thing! (I suspect this has to do with the similarity of scales used in these genres.) Leilei Tian’s Open Secret is more avant-garde, presenting an even more extreme array of timbres and textures. The two remaining works are arrangements of traditional Chinese melodies, but the arrangements are in the spirit of the three original works. Again, the last of these, Sunshine on Taxkorgan , may have you wondering if we have moved from the Far East to the Middle East. It turns out that the Xinjiang region of China is home to a significant Tajiki population, and as the language shifts to Persian, it is not surprising that the musical language shifts as well.


Delangle is a superlative musician, although one can hardly judge his playing on this CD by Western standards. His enthusiasm and versatility are completely obvious, however. Forgive me for saying that the stars of this CD, however, are the members of the Taipei Chinese Orchestra, who create sounds that are mysterious, biting, intoxicating, and darned close to delirious. As usual, BIS’s engineering adds to the fun. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of Harmonious Breath . It is like a Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco’s Chinatown, firecrackers and all!


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Saxophone no 1 by Yiu-Kwong Chung
Performer:  Claude Delangle (Saxophone)
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
2.
Concerto for Saxophone no 2 by Yiu-Kwong Chung
Performer:  Claude Delangle (Saxophone)
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
3.
River of Sorrow by Traditional
Performer:  Claude Delangle (Saxophone)
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
Written: China 
Notes: Arrangement: Peng Xiuwen 
4.
Open Secret by Leilei Tian
Performer:  Claude Delangle (Saxophone)
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
5.
Sunshine on Taxkorgan by Traditional
Performer:  Claude Delangle (Saxophone)
Conductor:  En Shao
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra
Written: China 
Notes: Arrangement: Chen Gang and Chung Yiu 

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