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I dont see the point of reviwing albums becuase if someone likes a band they will like all of their music and if they dont like a band why lisitin to them to give them a bad reviw surley this is pointless. Becuase personaly i really dont like this album so this is quite a rubish reviw and a waste of your time if you are reading it. Music is all a matter of opoinon so some people will love some albums and others will hate ablums, why are you commenting on them if you hate them? you have just wasted about 10 mins of your life talking about something you really hate wouldnt pay money for and your trying to pursuade people to do the same as you. Did it ever cross your mind that maybe people just want to DooYoo miles more than anything else? Maybe Just Maybe.
My first experience with Chinese music was a rather accidental encounter whereupon a colleague of mine passed me a CD he bought at a concert. Having only listened to a handful of tracks I was frustrated by the fact the music was mostly interpretations of English music such as Greensleeves, a piece that irritates beyond reason. Regardless of the skill of the musicians, it was watered-down music for an English audience.
A few years later, having seen Wu Man perform Philip Glass' Orion, I began to listen to a few small selections of Chinese music. Not really knowing where to start it was never easy and yet lo and behold yesterday in the local Oxfam music shop (which is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, far superior to the local HMV) I discovered a copy of Chinese Violin Music. A little sceptical of what I might find (for indeed the CD I did buy of Wu Man was atrociously produced) I nevertheless paid my money and took my chance.
I'm very glad I did too.
I find that in Chinese music I'm always attracted to the very delicate and evocative sound. It is also, despite the delicacy, very robust. There also seems to be vast reservoirs of emotion bubbling away under the surface, as well as a sense of carefully refined romanticism. These qualities are, as well as a distinct energetic liveliness, abound in the CD.
But who is Hu Kun? I for one had absolutely no idea. The liner notes reveal that he was a student at the Central Conservatory of music in Beijing and was subsequently invited to London to work with Yehudi Menuhin. He is now Professor of violin at the Yehudi Menuhin School and a member of the Royal Academy of Music.
Almost all the pieces on the CD are transcribed from other instruments and unlike some works where you feel something has disappeared in the translation, in Hu Kuns playing you feel as if the pieces had been originally written for violin and no other instrument. His playing throughout is quite beautiful, balanced and refined; but one should not forget the accompanist, Olga Sitkovetsky, whose piano underscores Kuns playing a perfectly. Her part is important for all the music on the CD is the work of the two musicians alone and she is no week link.
It is hardly surprising that the pieces on the CD are so evocative and imagistic when you remember that all the pieces of music are titled, for instance, Musical Poem by the Sea or Joy of Sight Recovery. As previously noted the music runs the emotional gamut, from such pieces as Madrigal, which is a delicately refined and restrained piece of music, yet suffused with a subtle romanticism; unsurprising considering it is a love song. This segues into The Deputies Of Li Are Going To Beijing, being a far more lively and energetic piece of music. It is a measure of the musicians that they can jump between delicate romanticism and a song that begins with such dramatic dynamism is flawless. Flawless is also the fact that between the two songs there is no difference in style though Madrigal is a traditional piece and The Deputies Of Li Are Going To Beijing is a modern work, written during the Cultural Revolution and conforming to political considerations.
There are also some intriguing similarities with other music. Musical Poem by the Sea, for instance, at moments is hauntingly similar to Michael Nyman's music for The Piano. Nevertheless, Musical Poem by the Sea is again a delicate and evocative work, one can hear the sound of waves, can picture the undulating seas, yet never in an excessively obvious or indelicate manner. Poem is certainly the correct word to explain the music, for it is exceptionally poetic and romantic, without ever being heavy-handed. For all the romanticism throughout the music, though often very tender, is never sentimental, rather it is felt in latent tension, in a sense of longing that gets under the skin. And certainly songs such as Musical Poem by the Sea slowly slip under your skin, moving you without you ever quite realising how or why, or even that it has happened, it simply does and it is quite beautifully moving with it.
Morning of Miao Mountain justly reflects the more robust, energetic and vibrant side of the music. There's a sense of joy, and also of playfulness. Though perhaps a little slow to start, the violin mimicking birdsong, it nevertheless bursts into life energetically and you can imagine the morning sun cascading across the Mountain and the people living there rushing out to meet it, as they get on with the daily routine their lives, and with smiles on their faces, if the music is anything to judge them by.
Equally, Song of Homesickness, reflects the other end of the spectrum. Delicately and with great subtlety it suggests - wait for it a sense of longing for home, for the quiet yearning for those that we love who live in distant places. Once again, the careful refinement refuses to allow the music to enter the territory of sickly, saccharine overemotional tripe.
The final piece, Sunshine Over Tashkurgan, is quite possibly the most beautiful on the CD. There is something almost heartbreaking in the tense romanticism of Kuns violin. It begins quite simply, with solo piano, and it's nice enough, but then Kun begins to play and something strange happens: Kun seems to pull pure emotion out of the air, or perhaps off the violin string that is both unexpected and remarkable as its beauty effortlessly insinuates its way under your skin. This in turn gives way to an energetic almost folk melody, whilst retaining all the emotion. It is quite simply seven beautiful minutes of music and the most marvellous way to end the CD.
Considering I managed to buy the CD for three pounds I'm not so much pleased as ecstatic. Having always been a fan of tensely emotional music and subtle romanticism, the CD is an absolute joy, and its ability to jump from vibrant energy to heartbreaking loss is enthralling and more often than not enthrallingly beautiful.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the CD not only to people who enjoy Chinese classical music, but classical as a whole. There is something wonderful about listening to music that is outside of your cultural radar and so often thoroughly unexpected and beautiful in ways unique to the style and form of the music.
It's not the cheapest CD but then it's not the most expensive, being £12.99 from Amazon.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Celebration Of A Bumper Harvest
2 Deputies Of Li Are Going To Beijing
3 Er Quan Lake Mirroring Bright
4 Fisherman's Serenade
5 Jolly Meetings
6 Joy Of Sight Recovery
8 Moonshine Over The Mountain Pass
9 Morning Of Miao Mountain
10 Musical Poem By The Sea
11 Song Of Home Sickness
12 Sunshine Over Tashkurgan
13 Talking About Suprising Things