"A spectacular canvas which fires the Hong Kong musicians to give of their best...Sheng’s music is at its most explorative, and the sound of Gondek’s creamy, Western-style classical voice taking on the sounds and techniques of Chinese traditional music is captivating...The solo pipa (a Chinese lute) is both onlooker and survivor, and poignantly so. Dramatic may be an understatement for the orchestra when it’s going at full steam but, in the gentler moments, the consummate artistry of Zhang Qiang reveals why the instrument’s sound has been likened to that of pearls falling on a jade tray...This is a disc which proves that World Music also happens in the concert hall."
William Dart - The New Zealand Herald - August 2003
"The Naxos disc is a budget-priced sampling of Sheng’s orchestral music...Samuel Wong’s Hong Kong Philharmonic is a superior band to Lan Shui’s Singapore Symphony, and Naxos gives Wong’s ensemble more vivid and flattering sound; Wong also is slightly more leisurely, especially in the climactic IV, resulting in a more coherent structural grasp. So if you’re in the market for this piece, I’d go with the Naxos."
Allen Gimbel - American Record Guide - August 2003
Performance **** Sound ****
"...Samuel Wong’s conducting shapes everything as clearly as you could wish."
Robert Maycock - BBC Music Magazine - June 2003
"Bright Sheng was born in Shanghai, experienced living through the Chinese Cultural revolution as a child and later studied composition at the local Conservatory of Music. In 1982 he moved to New York where he studied further, under Bernstein among others, winning various awards both in his homeland and in the USA. His highly accessible music has an individual voice and a vividly unpredictable orchestral palette. The spectacular China Dreams was composed between folk music. Fanfare, the second of the four movements, a brilliant toccata well laced with percussion, is immediately arresting, and the following evocation of lapping waters. Juliana Gondek joins the orchestra for the Two Poems, early works from 1985, the first short and exotic including some expert vocal glissandi, the second, longer, more a symphonic poem, with atmospheric orchestral writing and startling percussion.
Nanking! Nanking!, completed in 2000 and depicting the massacre when the Japanese swept into that ancient city in 1937, opens powerfully and stridently with remorseless rhythms and echoes of the Rite of Spring. The pipa (a short-necked Chinese lute) provides a ruminative retrospective narration, remembering both the darkness and the heroism of the survivors. But the music again generates considerable violence before, in a warm postlude for the strings, both elegiac and hopeful, the composer celebrates conclusion, with a final soliloquy from the pipa—so sensitively played here by Zhang Qiang—is interrupted by a brief but desperate final warning from the orchestra. These are surely definitely performances, with the Hong Kong Orchestra responding superb to the dedicated direction of Samuel Wong, and the recording is outstanding too." ***
Penguin Guide - January 2009
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