This is very new and very different
and I found it a delightful experience.
This group is from
The People’s Republic of China and use traditional Chinese instrumentation to
produce some very interesting interpretations of Western music as well as some
very interesting Chinese compositions.
This is their second CD, and I understand it has been a very
big success, as well as their sold out live performances across the
States. I put this in the category
of World, because their music runs from pop, to classical to New Age and then to
Chinese. Yes, it all works very well on
this CD, not clashing in any way or stretching the listener from one form to
The CD I have has 12 tracks, one of which is a live
performance. The recording quality is
excellent, even the live performance.
There are some familiar pieces on this CD and there are some very new and
wondrous compositions. Note
here that the CD that is offered for sale has a DVD, which I did not receive for
“Dunhuang”, the opening track, sets the mood and
the pace for the rest of the CD.
Dunhuang is a series of caves in China, noted for their artwork. There are some paintings of musical
performances, acrobats and such included with the scriptures, and this piece
reminds one of a mass performance of entertainers, very traditional Chinese in
style. Well chosen for the opening. The feeling of a full orchestra is consistent
in each performance. Mostly all of the
tracks are upbeat in their composition and style. Some are romantic in feel, others demand
presence as this piece does.
The second cut “Ruten” is just as dynamic as the opening
piece, allowing some of the instruments to come to the front and allowing the
listener to hear the excellent skills of the players. Each musician in this band is classically
trained in their instrumentation, and it shows in their ability to provide
traditional music or wonderful improvisation to the arrangements. There is almost a Celtic feel sometimes to
this piece, but it is expertly blended with the traditional sounds of the
“River Shule” falls back into a classical style of Chinese
melody. It wanders like the river does
Province, where Dunhuang is
also located. A very flowing piece, very
romantic, as the title of the CD suggests.
One almost gets the feel of a gondola on a Venice canal.
“Yangguan” is another composition inspired by Gansu Province, and this piece again connects to
that traditional Chinese location.
“Romantic Energy”, the title track, is another arrangement
with an almost Celtic flavor, but still maintains the Oriental feel. This piece sways and dances while we explore
the talents of the individual artists who are again being allowed to show their
skills with the traditional Chinese instrumentation.
“El Condor Pasa” is the work by Simon and Garfunkel. And it is charmingly interpreted here in a
blending that delights the ear. This is
one of those “you have to hear this” pieces to understand how it “translates
into the Chinese” effortlessly, and skillfully.
And it twists with just a touch of “pop” that is cleverly
done. “Tang Court Ensemble” is a very traditional work, again
interpreted by the band so it plays well for the Western ear.
“From the Beginning Until Now” is a lovely composition that
sounded vaguely familiar, but I believe it was written to do so. A lovely piece that spills over with romance
and continues the flavor of the title of the CD. “Whispering Earth”
is a very hauntingly beautiful composition, and includes some vocals to hold
that illusion. Very traditional Chinese
in feel, yet it manages to break that restraint and provides a place somewhere
between the East and the West.
"Flower” works into pop again, with a kick of jazz, and
presents us with yet another side of the band.
Again, the artists are allowed to show off their skills in a new medium
and it is very nicely done. “Carnival” returns us to the “Chinese meets
the Celts” style of music, again very nicely executed. Some real “get up and dance” feel to this
piece. The final track is the live rendition of “Freedom” from their
2004 CD. It has lots of audience
participation that does not distract from the work. But it does show that the audience knows
their band and its work. This is a
lovely composition, and it will have you clapping as well. A nice closing piece to this
Overall, I am impressed with this group. This is a great first impression for the new
listener to this kind of performance.
The band is tight, knows how to please the listener as well as show off
their excellent skills. The compositions
are well chosen, and the CD is a good production piece. If you enjoy
upbeat music, and would like something with a slight Chinese twist, this is a
lovely work to add to your collection.
While it does run towards the “pop” side, it has elements that could be
classified as “New Age”. I will tell
you, in my book the only way I classify it is “totally enjoyable”!
by MA Foster