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David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2016

Nineteen eighty-six was a landmark year for Chinese speaking composers from around the world who gathered in Hong Kong to showcase a new generation. It was also a time to strut the new-found excellence of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of their American conductor, Kenneth Schermerhorn, who had created a place for them as an ensemble of international standing. Opening the disc with the final movement from the Third Symphony by the Canadian trained Chan Wing-Wah, sets the scene with naked modernity, its percussion orientated eleven minutes creating a rhythmically propelled atmosphere of orchestral virtuosity. At this stage the young Tan Dun had not reached the eminence he now holds, the Intermezzo for Orchestra and Three Tone Colours experimenting with the interplay of musical voices—including the human voice—with solo parts for bass clarinet and double bassoon. Qu Xiao-Song also uses voices in Mong Dong, a very modern score that vividly pictures our thoughts on primitive human life. Huang Anlun studied at the Central Conservatoire in Beijing, and at the age of thirty-one decided to return to his musical education by moving to Canada and the USA, his Piano Concerto coming at the end of that period. He dedicated it to Joseph Banowetz, the soloist on this disc, who here performs the finale. Its ancestry comes from the very differing influences of Chinese music and a Prokofiev brittle brilliance that allows plenty for a virtuoso soloist to enjoy. Jordan Tang is an American composer born in Hong Kong, the peaceful second movement of the Third Symphony being followed by a vibrant finale, both couched in modern Western traditions. The disc ends in peace with Ye Xiaogang’s Moon over the West River, the mood taking us back to the opening track. Some edgy string intonation shows musicians still coming to grips with the scores, but it is an interesting insight into new music. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

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