Chen, Musgrave, Zhou & Hovhaness

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Chen,Musgrave,Zhou & Hovhaness
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Oriental Landscapes
WORKS: Journey Through a Japanese Landscape; Out of Tang Court; Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints
PERFORMER: Evelyn Glennie (percussion); Singapore SO/Lan Shui
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1222
A disc of pleasing symmetries, with four substantial works revealing East-West connections. Two are by Chinese composers now resident in the USA who give potent orchestral settings to their country’s traditional melodies, and two are by Western composers who have taken their inspiration from Japan. The pieces prove ideal vehicles for Glennie’s familiarly faultless musicianship. Her playing is demonstrative and strongly characterised but never merely showy, and the sheer beauty of the sounds she makes is seductive: the thuds and rumbles that open the Chen Yi Concerto are carefully placed and graded, and the ringing xylophone notes in Hovhaness’s Fantasy on Japanese Wood Prints are like water droplets. The demanding Chen Yi work even requires Glennie to sing in the weird, oily sprechgesang of Beijing opera, and she rises to the challenge convincingly.

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Thea Musgrave’s Journey Through a Japanese Landscape is the highlight, a compact concerto for marimba and winds tracing the seasons through four movements of vivid imagery. Not a note is wasted. Zhou Long’s Out of Tang Court (the only work not to feature Glennie) pits a trio of Chinese instruments against a symphony orchestra in a rich evocation of Chinese ceremonial music: the result is a grand processional, mesmerising in its reiterations. Glennie gets strong support from the Singapore SO, and the recorded sound is excellent: never have I heard the bass notes of a marimba resonate so beautifully. Highly recommended. David Kettle