Chen Yi

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Momentum; Chinese Folk Dance Suite; Romance and Dance; Dunhuang Fantasy; Tu
PERFORMER: Cho-Liang Lin, Yi-Jia Susanne Hou (violin), Kimberly Marshall (organ); Singapore SO/Lan Shui
The 2003 Proms saw a hit for the 50-year-old US-based Chen Yi’s Concerto for Evelyn Glennie. Her calling-card CD gives campus-style makeovers to musical sources from her native China, most engagingly in the Chinese Folk Dance Suite. It’s really a violin concerto that spotlights regional idioms, including a dance from Muslim Central Asia with kinship to music from the ex-Soviet states, and a haunting scherzo with chanted syllables and shaken percussion.


Romance and Dance, for two violins and strings, is a short, lean and direct essay on similar lines, while the other pieces place themselves progressively further West. The Dunhuang Fantasy shows an expert ear for blending organ, wind and percussion; its working-out feels too long, though the big finish is worth the wait. Momentum for full orchestra mixes chromatic and modal lines as its forward movement swings between extremes. Two episodes, one growing from an intermittent pounding and one a wind-down like a dawn chorus, stand out from a less personal whole.


Tu is a 9/11 piece, commemorating New York’s firefighters in 9+1+1 rhythms – a reference you may find unfortunate. Again the most gripping passage involves repeated chords, shrill and spacing out over a growling pedal. All the performances have great energy, and the brightly recorded solos finesse. Robert Maycock