Wednesday, 27 January 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, January 2016)

Symphony “Humen 1839”
New Zealand Symphony / DARRELL ANG
Naxos 8.570611 / *****

The Chinese husband-and-wife composing pair of Zhou Long and Chen Yi have highly successful individual careers, and Symphony “Humen 1839” (2009) represents their own only major joint collaboration to date. It was inspired by the 1839 burning of a thousand tons of opium in Humen, Guangdong, a Chinese version of the Boston Tea Party, but the event that sparked off the disastrous Opium Wars. 

Its four movements play for a half-hour, programmatic and almost Copland-like in its narrative. The music begins in Cantonese pomp, honouring the defiantly heroic figure of Lin Zexu, and depicts its humiliating capitulation under British aggression in the slow movement. This precedes China's inexorable ascent as a world power on its own right, represented by the finale’s triumphal music of the “Star Wars” kind. This is both a patriotic as well as cathartic work.

Two shorter pieces by Zhou complete the album. The Rhyme Of Taigu (2003) is a vigorously rhythmic work that celebrates the pomp and ceremonial role of the ancient dagu, the drum also known by the Japanese as the taiko. The Enlightened (2005) reflects on the contribution of ancient Chinese philosophies to a troubled world. 

This is a first-ever classical Grammy nomination by a Singaporean, the conductor Darrell Ang, and his spirited leadership of the splendid New Zealand Symphony is never in question. This is a disc befitting our SG50 celebrations.  

DARRELL ANG conducts
Singapore Symphony Orchestra's
37th Anniversary Concert
Esplanade Concert Hall
Friday, 29 January 2016
7.30 pm, Tickets available at SISTIC

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