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Ge Gan-ru

"Yi Feng" (Lost Style) (1983)
"Four Studies of Peking Opera"
"Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!" (2006)

Shanghai Quartet/Kathryn Woodard, piano/Margaret Leng Tan, voice and self-accompanied toy orchestra/Frank Su Huang, cello

New Albion NA134

A CD of unusual originality introducing China’s "first avant-garde composer" (b. 1954, Shanghai).

Ge Gan-ru
transforms the piano quintet in his Four Studies, with the piano's strings representing Peking Opera's gongs, cymbals, woodblocks and the string quartet music incorporating slow microtonal glissandi and snap pizzicati. It can be seen as a homage to age-old tradition from a twenty-first century Chinese perspective.

Margaret Leng Tan, surrounded by her collection of toy pianos, appeared in London at the BMIC Cutting Edge series, and here she vocalizes while accompanying herself "Peking operatic style" in a Sung Dynasty poem, "Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!", singing, wailing, whispering, moaning and groaning her way 'through Ge's increasingly anguished landscape'.

The title piece, Lost Style, is an astonishing exploration of Chinese musical elements with new playing techniques; amazing sounds, sure to be a high spot of any adventurous cellist's solo recital.

A refreshingly different CD, highly recommended to listeners who seek new experiences from farther afield.

Peter Grahame Woolf

SHE HERSELF ALONE The Art of the Toy Piano 2 (DVD)

John Cage Suite for Toy Piano & Dream
Eric Griswold Old MacDonald’s Yellow Submarine
On that Farm; e-i-e-i-o; Pink Memories; Chooks!; Bicycle Lee Hooker; Old MacDonald’s Yellow Submarine
Toby Twining An American in Buenos Aires (A Blues Tango)
George Crumb Put My Little Shoes Away
Jerome Kitzke The Animist Child
Ross Bolleter Hymn to Ruin
Laura Liben She Herself Alone [audio only]

Margaret Leng Tan: toy pianos, toy instruments, piano, percussion, music boxes, voice

moderecords 221

Margaret Leng Tan's second toy piano CD (Mode Records) was welcomed earlier this year: Leng Tan's exploration of the toy piano is an absolute delight, charming miniatures backed by rigorous, indeed fanatical scholarship from the world authority - see our review of her playing avant-garde Chinese music . This will be the ideal Christmas present for a musical child in a receptive family; but wait for the DVD version, soon available.

Now, just in good time for Christmas 2010, it is available in DVD, filmed by Spanish videographer Anton Cabaleiro, and it is a joy which will bring delight to lucky children of all ages; including oldsters like us.

There are two seriously playful pieces by John Cage and several by living composers, of great variety. She changes dress for the moods of the pieces, uses props (e.g. a rose in her mouth for the Blues tango) and plays two and more instruments all at once. There is a miniature musical box which will astonish.

Most of the music is necessarily simple, but not simplistic. Everything is played with great concentration and filmed imaginatively in close-up.

Order it whilst there's still time !

Peter Grahame Woolf