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More than any other item, Rondo No 1 (1937) conforms to virtuoso style, somewhat in the nature of a moto perpetuo, and here it's dashed off by the Ku Lu partnership with engaging aplomb.

The final and longest three-movement item Tone Poem of Tibet (1941) [listen -- track 15, 0:00-1:08], lasting nearly 23 minutes, derives from musical idioms of Xizàng (popularly known as 'The Roof of the World'). From the opening Legend Telling the 'poem' proves a work of high introductory drama resolving after nearly three and a half minutes into a lilting folk theme. Lamasery, the central and longest movement of this recital, brings a mood of consuming, unrelieved solemnity while the final Sword Dance recaptures the folk-like brio that's never far away in Ma Sicong's oeuvre [listen -- track 17, 4:51-5:55].

Following a Chinese training soloist Hsiao-mei Ku completed her masters at Indiana University. She is associate professor (violin) at Duke University and periodically teaches at Shanghai Conservatory, East China Normal University and Zhejiang School of the Arts. In addition concert tours have taken her to Europe, South America and the Middle East.

Pianist Ning Lu was named 'Steinway Artist' in 2005. He is Assistant Professor of Piano and co-ordinator of piano classes at the School of Music, University of Utah.

To sum up, 'Music for Violin and Piano' (Ma Sicong), the first release in the Naxos Chinese Classics series, is vital, refreshing, consistently accessible, thoroughly enjoyable; and yet another highlight in the label's continuing flair for musical exploration and enterprise.

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


Ma Sicong: Music for Violin and Piano Vol 1

8.570600 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 71'05" 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Hsiao-mei Ku, violin; Ning Lu, piano

Ma Sicong (1912-1987): Dragon Lantern Dance (1953); Mountain Song (1953); Madrigal (1944); Inner Mongolia Suite (1937) (Epic; Nostalgia; Dances beyond the Frontier); Lullaby (1935); Lantern Festival Dance (1952); Amei Suite (1981) (Spring; Solitude; Mountain Song; Moon; Dancing along the Hillside); Rondo No 1 (1937); Tone Poem of Tibet (1941) (Legend Telling; Lamasery; Sword Dance)


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