Friday, 23 March 2012

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, March 2012)

Foo Say Ming, Violin & Leader

Local cross-over band re:mix believes that classical music has taken itself too seriously, and its ethos: there should be no demarcation between classical music and pop culture. Its d├ębut album is a 43-minute long snapshot of what this crack string ensemble led by Singapore Symphony Orchestra violinist Foo Say Ming does best, which is to apply “classical” methods to popular hits in a novel and highly intelligent manner. Allied to this cause is Cultural Medallion winner Kelly Tang, whose arrangements of Latin and Chinese songs such as Aquellos Ojos Verdes, Quizas Quizas Quizas, Lover’s Tears and Shanghai Beach are a total pleasure. These melodies are often more recognisable than their titles or composers.

Only Tang could have transcribed Tian Mi Mi (Dayung Sampan) in the manner of Danny Elfman’s theme from The Simpsons, or turned The Moon Represents My Heart into a Mahlerian Adagio. Theresa Teng must be laughing from her grave. The only original music is Tang’s Two Contrasts, a work as eclectic as the ensemble itself. Going beyond its Bartokian title and Bachian form of wistful Prelude followed by a pulsing Toccata (including a fugue for good measure), it comfortably fuses the genres of the palm court with a Shostakovich-Barshai chamber symphony. Foo’s solo playing and leadership is top-notch throughout, and a sequel is keenly awaited.

This CD is available at, all re:mix, Take 5 and SSO concerts, Synwin (Marina Square) and Gramophone outlets.

The Cardinall’s Musick / Andrew Carwood
Hyperion 67860 / *****

Music of the Vatican during the Renaissance was once shrouded in secrecy. The scores of glorious choral polyphony were closely guarded secrets, often handed down by oral tradition. It was the 14-year-old Mozart, whom upon hearing the Miserere mei, Deus of Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), faithfully notated the score from memory thus breaking the centuries-old stranglehold on religious music. This magnificent recording not only includes that classic with its descant high Cs and decorative ornamentations but also Allegri’s Lamentations of Jeremiah and Gustate Et Videte (Taste And See), more simply beautiful music.

The “main event” of the album is the 12-part mass Missa Cantantibus Organis for 12 voices, a conglomerate work by seven composers assembled in the late 1580s or early 1590s. Written in tribute to St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, it also honoured the great Giovanni Palestrina (1525-1594), the most senior of the seven, by using motifs from his motet Cantantibus Organis (also included in this anthology). Despite certain sections missing from the mass and a Dominus Deus section whose composer is unknown, the work is greater than the sum of its parts. The pristine and radiant voices of The Cardinall’s Musick are vividly recorded. One imagines this to be the very sounds of Heaven.

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