Classical review: January 19

Gillian Whitehead: Arapatiki.
Steve De Pledge (piano), etc.
Atoll CD.

Arapatiki was commissioned by De Pledge as one of a series of landscape preludes. It was first performed in London (2004) but this is a 2011 recording. Its title means ''the way of the flounder'', being the name of sand flats near the Dunedin composer's house at Harwood. The music advances and retreats like tides, and opens with a bellbird (korimako) song. Four longer works employ voice, and small instrumental groups. Camelot, with poems by Glenn Colquhoun, and Three Windows on the Weather (poems by Greg O'Brien) were previously released in 2010. Hine Te Kakara is a new version of the lament and Nga Ha O Nehera, written for bassoonist Ben Hoadley, is a first recording.

Highlights: Suite for solo bassoon; composer's notes on all works.

The Butterfly Lovers, The Yellow River.
Chen Jie (piano), NZ Symphony Orchestra.
Naxos CD.

Chen Jie, a talented and dynamic Chinese pianist, is soloist for these two piano concertos with the NZSO (conductor Carolyn Kuan, known for her expertise in Asian music and contemporary works). The Yellow River is one of the most popular Chinese works, based on Yellow River Cantata, by Xian Xinghai, that dated from the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). It is highly patriotic, with solo piano arpeggios depicting the waves of the river, while thundering chords announce the triumph of victory. Telling a tragic love story like Romeo and Juliet, The Butterfly Lovers violin concerto is successfully arranged for piano and orchestra by Chen Gang, one of its joint composers, and brilliantly played by Ms Chen.

Highlights: Fingers float like butterflies; also thunder on the piano.

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