Classical reviews: November 17

> Asian Music for String Quartet.
NZ String Quartet.
Naxos CD.

Recorded in Toronto's St John's Church, five composers are featured, combining aesthetic and musical elements of East and West.

Eight Colours is a standout item, written by Tan Dun in 1986 in New York; its eight short sections are vivid brush paintings of traditional Peking Opera. Zhou Long's Song of the Ch-in evokes a Chinese zither with harmonious pluck, while Chinary Ung's Spiral III (1990) portrays gems in a Cambodian necklace.

A Way a Lone, by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996), takes its title from novelist James Joyce and provides shimmering sounds. Gao Ping, a composer-pianist born in China now based in New Zealand, provides Bright Light and Cloud Shadows, a calm landscape rippled with clouds inspired by a Ming Dynasty poem.

Highlight: Interesting exotic sounds, beautifully played.

 > "Be My Love".
Joseph Calleja (tenor), BBC Concert Orchestra.
Decca CD

Subtitled "A Tribute to Mario Lanza", is a crossover undertaking by Maltese tenor Calleja with many of the greatest hits of Lanza, "a voice of ridiculous beauty" that inspired Calleja to take up singing.

Sprinkled between evergreen songs such as the saccharine title tune, Granada, Arrivederci Roma, The Loveliest Night of the Year, Because You're Mine and the football anthem You'll Never Walk Alone, are great operatic arias made popular by Lanza's movie performances.

The latter include Addio alla Madre (from Cavalleria rusticana), La fleur (from Bizet's Carmen), and the ubiquitous Nessun dorma. The performances were reconstructed from manuscripts of original Lanza performances, Steven Mercurio leads the BBC orchestra in accompaniments but all is recorded with unusually high dynamics.

Verdict: Calleja recalls Lanza with passion and charm.


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