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Ma Sicong's undying patriotism was never realistically in doubt and prior to the troubles he held posts as President of the Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou and the Central Conservatory in Beijing; also as Artistic Director of the Chinese Philharmonic and Taiwan Philharmonic Orchestras.

To avoid becoming thoroughly muddled it's as well to note that the sequence of items as listed (1-17) on the back of Naxos' case does not correspond with that of Su Xia's written notes inside -- be warned!

Hsiao-mei Ku (violin) and pianist Ning Lu begin their recital with three 'stand-alone' items; Dragon Lantern Dance (1953), Mountain Song (1953) and Madrigal (1944). The first of these, modeled on Liu Zhidan, a folk song of Northern Shanxi Province, has an attractive and sinuous lyrical core encased in driving 'Bartokian' rhythmic bookends.

Mountain Song is an affecting legato with the meager decorative figures confined largely to the piano and lastly, Madrigal, a perfectly-balanced slow dance derives from an Inner Mongolian song, Teasing the son-in-law.

The enormously rewarding three-movement Inner Mongolia Suite (1937) is the sort of work I'd like to see adopted by today's army of emerging Euro-US instrumental virtuosi.

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Copyright © 4 March 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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