Zhou Long

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Poems from Tang; The Rhyme of Taigu; Da Qu; The Future of Fire
PERFORMER: Jonathan Fox (percussion); Shanghai Quartet, Singapore Philharmonic Chamber Choir & SO/Lan Shui
This is a hugely seductive disc, full of gorgeous tunes and beautiful, intricate orchestral effects. I defy anyone not to be enchanted. Zhou Long (b1953), an enthusiast for the art and music of the Chinese Tang Dynasty before becoming victim to the ‘re-education’ of the Cultural Revolution and now resident in the USA, melds Chinese and Western classical music in a highly persuasive way. He imitates Chinese instruments with a Western orchestra, or suddenly breaks into a lush Chinese melody, or punctuates his textures with throbbing drums and piercing Chinese cymbals. Most successful are the Poems from Tang – not surprisingly, since Zhou’s strengths are evidently in musical story-telling – in which he illustrates a quartet of tales in a mini-symphony of breathtaking invention. There are some hilarious moments – notably the ‘Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets’ of the final movement who clearly become more inebriated as the piece progresses: cue increasingly exaggerated vibrato from the concertante string quartet. The Rhyme of Taigu builds compelling forward movement from ostinati and fragments of melody, while Da Qu explores Sino-Japanese musical cross-fertilisation. My only criticism is that similar musical gestures often recur from piece to piece, but the invention is so compelling that you hardly notice. The performances are fiercely committed and highlight the sparkling colours of Zhou’s unique sound-world, and while the recorded sound can become a little muddy in loud climaxes, it copes splendidly with the subtleties of Zhou’s quiet effects. David Kettle