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Lesley Sly
Sound & Image (Australia), April 2008

Strong elements of Chinese folk and classical tradition in the tunes and in exquisite shivers of dissonance and piercing high notes, but modern western nuances too. There are joyous dances, rhapsodic cadenzas, tone poems, and short sketches based on rural scenes, grief and hardship. No doubt this taut, economical and moving performance is also informed by Ku’s experiences as a teenager in re-education heavy manual labour programs, and from witnessing the composer being abused by Red Guards in front of students and teachers.




Paolo Hooke
Fine Music, February 2008

Ma was an innovator in his use of Chinese folk material, adopting themes and shaping them into his own creations. In this disc we can enjoy the composer’s use of folk songs from various regions of China; Shanxi Province, Anhui Province, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, which are seamlessly and skillfully crafted into chamber music pieces that are Western in style, Chinese in character. There is a range of moods; from the lively to the lyrical, from the robust to the rhapsodic. …The violinist is Chinese-born Hsiao-mei Ku who shares a personal connection with the composer…Ku plays the music with a depth of understanding and affection, ably supported by Chinese-born pianist Ning Lu. The total timing is generous at 71 minutes and there are accompanying notes. …Highly recommended; the music is lyrical, warm and approachable, and sometimes, even exquisite.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2007

A student of violin and composition in France during the 1920's and 30's, Ma Sicong had become one of the leading pedagogues in his native China until the Red Guards forced him from his employment. Having suffered physical abuse at their hands, he was fortunate enough to find safe passage to the United States where he spent the last twenty years of his life, dying there in 1987 at the age of 75. He left a large catalogue of music from symphonies and concertos to the modest pieces included on this disc. He pioneered the use of Chinese folk music within conventional Western classical frameworks, aiming to give far greater international circulation. Like much Chinese music the colourful titles do not translate into the pictures we understand, their content falling under the heading 'light music'. The usual brevity called for little more than a simple working around the basic melody. the three movements of Tone Poem of Tibet being the one score where we find greater adventure and a much closer affinity to Western idioms. Though he spent much of his time in the States as a composer, this disc - with the exception of the Amei Suite dating from 1981 - being devoted to music written before arriving there. Tonal, musically uncomplicated, it does at times call for a degree of brilliance from the violinist, as in the hectic finale of the Inner Mongolia Suite. Hsiao-mei Ku was a child prodigy who also suffered at the hands of the Red Guard, but unlike the composer has been able to return there in happier times. Though there are some purple patches in the pieces that need agility, by and large they are not demanding, and she has the inner knowledge of having heard the composer play some of the pieces when a young student. Using the slide up to the note to capture the Chinese folk quality, the Tone Poem of Tibet could probably have benefitted with a few more edits. Ning Lu makes the most of the rather functional accompaniment, the sense of spontaneity characterising the whole disc. Microphones have been set well back from the musicians, the hall's generous reverberation slightly blurring articulation in fast passages. The disc forms the first release in the new Naxos Chinese Classics series, and is well documented. An auspicious start. You may find in certain geographic regions you have to obtain through Internet.






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12:40:16 PM, 8 July 2015
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