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Ian Dando
Listener Magazine (New York), August 2016

CD is a superb selection full of riches. © 2016 Listener Magazine (New York)

David W Moore
American Record Guide, May 2013

These are effective performances, and the program is nicely unified in style. This is all music with a fresh atmosphere in a fine recording. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, April 2013

This is a fascinating and rare collection performed by a group from New Zealand…

The recording is immediate but has a wonderful feel, space and spread. The performances are nothing less than idiomatic and superb. Worth investigating. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, April 2013

…outstanding chamber music is available from the New Zealand String Quartet, in their Asian Music for String Quartet…It collects remarkably engaging music by Zhou Long, Chinary Ung, Gao Ping, Tōru Takemitsu, and Tan Dun.

It is…exceptionally well-recorded…Don’t overlook this winning music, which so easily negotiates cultural borders and never sacrifices integrity in doing so. © 2013 PS Tracks Read complete review

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, February 2013

The New Zealand String Quartet are the performers on the CD Asian Music for String Quartet…a quite fascinating—and often quite beautiful—example of contemporary musical East meets West. There are single works by China’s Zhou Long and Gao Ping, Cambodia’s Chinary Ung…Japan’s Toru Takemitsu and Tan Dun…It’s all superbly played by the New Zealand quartet. The recording was made in the acoustically superb St. Anne’s Church in west end Toronto, with the ever-reliable Norbert Kraft as recording engineer. © 2013 The WholeNote Read complete review

David Pearson
I Care If You Listen, January 2013

The New Zealand String Quartet has shown much care and attention to detail in bringing to life the music of four Asian composers on their latest recording for Naxos. The CD, Asian Music for String Quartet, presents disparate sound worlds influenced to varying degrees by Asian music and instruments. The techniques, timbres, and stylistic nuances demanded of the performers would be a challenge for the best of ensembles, and it is testament to the New Zealand Quartet’s hard work, expressive sensitivity, and diligent interpretation that each composition’s unique qualities shine.

Perhaps my personal favorite on the disc is Chinary Ung’s Spiral III. After its bold beginning, the piece patiently explores different colorful timbres, giving each new sound a sense of clarity…On the whole, Ung allows for individual voices to come to the fore and shine while also achieving a synthesis of the different elements. A particular beautiful moment to me was hearing the first violin soar above the quartet while maintaining a sense of serene calm. Ung…has succeeded here in drawing on musical textures and spiritual influences from his native Cambodia while mastering string quartet composition in his own way.

Gao Ping’s Bright Light and Cloud Shadows also displayed a tremendous sense of patience, letting the music breathe and develop. Its barren, almost spooky beginning allowed for dissonances to creep in to the texture. I was impressed with the way the few melodic motives used would emerge and be “worked on” by the quartet, with a two-note accented motive providing a coherence and destination to the piece…I felt drawn to listen deeply to the different sounds being created, and I’m sure each listening will be a different experience.

Zhou Long’s Song of the Ch’in has the quartet imitating the ch’in, a Chinese seven-stringed zither that is plucked with tremendous sophistication. This instrumental quality was realized well by both composer and performers here. I was impressed with the full tone of each plucked note in the New Zealand Quartet’s capable hands. The quick slides after the strings were plucked were just one of the nuances brought out among the myriad of ornaments throughout. The harmonies were full of color…

What is fascinating to me in Toru Takemitsu’s music is hearing the distinct influences of different composers while also hearing Takemitsu’s highly individual voice. On A Way a Lone, I personally hear a lot of Debussy in the lush harmonies and flowing motion around the quartet. This is no cheap imitation though, and it’s noteworthy how much there is to listen to in this piece, with background figures darting in and out of the texture along with quick, churning melodic lines.

Tan Dun’s aptly titled Eight Colors consists of short character pieces that draw out sounds ranging from siren-like, slinky, urgency with that horror-movie foreboding, heavily accented with pizzicato explorations, to a ticking nervous energy. Each movement is just long enough to explore its sounds and techniques, but the tremendous variety is a good contrast to the other pieces on this CD…

On the whole, Asian Music for String Quartet is a well-executed showcase of four very different composers who often foster organic musical connections between the Western art music tradition and Asian musical practices. Besides being a good introduction to their work, each track will undoubtedly provoke new reactions with each listen given the sense of detail and enticing sound worlds they create. © 2013 I Care If You Listen Read complete review

David Hurwitz, January 2013

This disc brings together five works by as many highly talented Asian composers…The first three works, Zhou Long’s Song of the Ch’in, Chinary Ung’s Spiral III, and Gao Ping’s Bright Light and Cloud Shadows, come from a similar school of contemporary composition, broadly speaking. You might call it an offshoot of Romantic Nationalism with avant-garde elements, at least to the extent that Asian melodic ideas mingle with imitations of native instruments involving advanced playing techniques. All three works are captivating in their various ways. Takemitsu’s A Way a Lone…exploits the composer’s familiar mix of Debussy and Messiaen with typically evocative results.

Tan Dun’s Eight Colors is the largest piece on the program…placing it last on the program turns out to be a smart move, as the work exploits many of the same timbral elements previously heard and the music comes across as nicely contrasted and appealing. All five pieces are very well played by the sensitive and virtuosic New Zealand String Quartet, and equally well recorded by Naxos’ engineers. A very enjoyable disc… © 2013 Read complete review

Lewis Whittington, December 2012

…Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung’s Spiral III…[is] an intimate and bio-historical work. This courageous piece has a soul-searching arc that documents incomprehensible human tragedy and climb out of it with renewed purpose. It unfolds in tremulous and spikey string clusters. The stunning technique and theatrical refinement in the playing by NZSQ just haunts your senses. This is a modern masterpiece.

Pianist-composer Gao Ping…contemplates time and borders in Bright Light and Cloud Shadows…Pohl and Beilman’s taut violin lines fly to a vanishing point or stay jagged in the resolves are interlocked with Ansell’s chromatic viola, while Gjelsten’s rich descending cello line appears and vanishes. You wonder if Ping composes on piano because he writes so vividly for string quartet.

NZSQ includes the ethereal A Way a Lone…by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu…Takemitsu’s is a tonal tragedian and this has cinematic grandeur and the intimacy of a chamber piece.

NZSQ recorded this at St. Anne’s Church, Toronto, Canada in the summer 2010 and is well engineered by Norbert Kraft. © 2012 Read complete review

Brian Wilson - Download News 2012/24
MusicWeb International, December 2012

…the performances sound idiomatic, the notes are helpful and the recording is good. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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