Born in Shanghai in 1954, Ge Gan-ru grew up at a time when Western music was not heard in public, and could only be studied in secret. As the political and cultural atmosphere in China changed, Ge became one of the first students to enrol at the re-opened Shanghai Conservatory. There he was able to acquaint himself with the music of composers such as John Cage, George Crumb and Pierre Boulez, and it was at this time that he earned the designation ‘China’s first avant-garde composer’. Moving to New York in 1983, he continued his studies, with the expressed aim ‘to combine contemporary Western compositional techniques with my Chinese experience and Chinese musical characteristics’.
A previous recording on BIS of Ge Gan-ru’s orchestral music impressed reviewers, with the website ClassicsToday.com remarking on the composer’s ‘immediately identifiable, intriguingly personal style’, ‘alternately exciting and ravishing’ and ‘full of warmth and humour’.
The present album combines two works which both proudly display their Chinese roots. The flute concerto Fairy Lady Meng Jiang is inspired by a classic Chinese fairy-tale, set in the 3rd century B.C. at the time of the building of the Great Wall and incorporating an element of magic as well as a dramatic love story with a deeply unhappy ending. The work is dedicated to Sharon Bezaly, the soloist on this recording, who also gave it its first performance together with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León and Enrique Diemecke in March 2009. The same occasion saw the first performance of its companion piece, the orchestral suite Lovers Besieged which the composer developed from an earlier trio for cello, percussion and piano. Again the work is rooted in early Chinese history – in fact just a few years after the events befalling Meng Jiang – and again it is a story of love and death, now played out against a back-drop of war and insurrection during the collapse of the Qin dynasty.
"...I am --- open-mouthed in admiration for the brilliance of the musicians who have brought this over-the-top music to life in such a vivid manner. Diemecke doesn’t spare the horses, as they say, when it comes to urging his players to indulge fully in Ge’s multiplicity of effects, and these Spanish musicians come up with some truly amazing playing, all of which BIS has caught in a gloriously robust recording."
Marc Rochester - International Record Review - May 2014