This CD review has been published on the following two websites. It is written by Byzantion and translated to Chinese by Paula Wong.
Fu-Tong Wong (b.1948).
Postcards from China.
- Xi Shi Fantasy [11:45]
- Variations on the Theme of Anping Ballade [7:19]
- Variations on the Theme of Hoyahue [8:20]
- Chinese Dance in D [2:29]
- Chinese Dance in E [4:52]
- Suite: Dream of my Motherland (1976) [11:10]
- 4 Chinese Folk Songs [14:37]
Cho-Liang Lin (violin), Evelyn Chen (piano).
Recorded: Concert Hall, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 17-18 May 2010.
Wong1s Music & Culture WCD 003 [61:07] DDD. R+
Released: February 2011.
Fu-Tong Wong is a Cantonese composer currently living in Taiwan. Initially self-taught, he emigrated to New York in the 1970s to help in his brother1s noodle business in Chinatown, but was able to take a university degree in music from 1975. Since then he has published books on music theory and violin practice, taught and studied further, and written a fair amount of music, although even as late as 1990 he was still working in his brother1s concern.
This CD, released on Wong1s own label, is a step towards realising, in his daughter1s words, "his dream of uniting the best of classical Western and Eastern music". It contains all of Wong1s music to date for solo violin with, in all but one case, piano. The disc is not widely available as such, but on emusic.com can be had at the 1superbudget1 price (under £5.99), with individual tracks even cheaper. For a CD which is crammed with gorgeous Far Eastern melodies but fundamentally Western harmonies, instruments and techniques which are all but guaranteed to appeal to almost any music lover, that represents an absolute bargain.
The Xi Shi Fantasy is based on Wong1s only opera so far, Xi Shi. It consists of four distinct sections, recounting the love woes of the eponymous heroine, one of the apocryphal Four Beauties of Ancient China whose loveliness had a tendency to bring ruin upon kingdoms. Wong considers this piece, which was premiered in its original orchestral version in 1993 at the famous Musikverein in Vienna, one of his signature works, and in it he has attempted to "embody the qualities of Bach1s music and Chinese opera" - a curious notion, perhaps, but one in keeping with Wong1s belief that Bach is "the founder of all compositions", as he writes in his 2004 book Theory on Music, and with his aim to combine Eastern and Western ideas in his music. Aptly, this virtuosic work has plenty of drama, but also lyrical pastoralism, dance and rhapsodic beauty.
The oddly-titled Variations on the Theme of Anping Ballade is Wong1s only work so far for solo violin. It is a programmatic piece, telling the story of a girl whose spends her life waiting in vain at the Taiwanese port of Anping for her love to return from sea. Wong1s music is suitably longing in mood, albeit more touchingly wistful than gloomy, and with a glimmer of hope cruelly dashed in the middle. Cho-Liang Lin1s violin, well-known in the West both on disc and in the concert hall, is marvellously delicate here, and as immaculate and heartfelt as it is throughout the recital. Wong has written that "there is no good composition without good performance", and in Lin and Evelyn Chen1s hands he is already halfway to winning audiences over.
1Hoyahue1 is a popular Taiwanese song written by composer Yuxian Deng (1906-1944), sometimes known as the "father of Taiwanese pop music", and whose 1Spring Song1 some may know from a couple of Lang Lang1s CDs. According to the liner notes, 1Hoyahue1 means "a flower in the rain and darkness" and symbolises "the hardship of the Taiwanese people." Wong1s Variations on this lovely theme alternate key and mood to reflect the joys and struggles of the Taiwanese.
The two sprightly Chinese Dances are similar in character, although the second interweaves a further, more melancholic motif, telling as it does the story of a captive Uighur girl whose dancing eventually sets her spirit free in the sanguine ending.
Wong wrote the 1Dream of my Motherland1 Suite in 1976, before he had had any formal training in composition, "to fill his nostalgic heart with music". There are five short sections, the yearning, beautiful 1South of the Yangtze River1, 1Sheng Dance1, a knees-up round a bonfire with the ethnic mouth organ, 1Remembrance1, in which Wong "wants to greet his loved ones from across the ocean through his music", the cantering 1Song of the Horse Wagon1, and 1Hand Drum Dance1, a lively jig from northwestern China sounding uncannily British.
Finally, the four arrangements of Chinese Folk Songs: 1Mongolian Folk Song1, a simple but evocative piece depicting the vast landscape and arduous life of the nomads, the fleeting but perky and tricky 1Drum Dance1, the atmospheric 1Tibetan Love Song1, and the 1Ali Mountain Song1, a medley of idiomatic tunes which Wong initially thought a Taiwanese folksong, but which turned out to be an original piece by Taiwanese film director Che Zhang.
Sound quality is very high. The CD booklet is informative, although all the more so for those who can read Chinese!
reviews.gramma.co.uk, May 2011