Yuri Bashmet / Wu Man / Moscow Soloists

Tan Dun: Pipa Concerto; Hayashi: Viola Concerto; Takemitsu: Nostalghia

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Tan Dun's Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa (1999) is a reworking of one of his most popular works, Ghost Opera, written for and recorded by the Kronos Quartet. In this version, the composer's characteristic polystylism -- which here includes Chinese folk song, Copland-esque Big Sky music, quotations from Bach, and vocalizations by the orchestra -- comes across as a jumble, without much of a strong vision holding the disparate elements together. Pipa virtuoso Wu Man, who appeared on the Kronos recording, plays the concerto with energy and delicacy. She's ably accompanied by the Moscow Soloists, led by Yuri Bashmet. The concerto is followed by Takemitsu's Nostalghia (1987) for violin and string orchestra. Its compositional assurance, clarity, subtly nuanced orchestration, and emotional directness make it all the more striking in contrast to the Tan Dun. Here Bashmet is the impassioned soloist, with Roman Balashov conducting with great sensitivity. The three brief excerpts from Takemitsu's film scores are a pleasant stylistic diversion -- light, strongly differentiated character pieces. Hikaru Hayashi's Concert-elegia for viola and strings is a substantial contribution to the small repertoire of successful viola concertos. As its title suggests, its tone is essentially one of gentle melancholy, but it's also characterized by an optimistic serenity. It's elegantly and beautifully conceived and constructed, with a transparent emotional appeal. The versatile Bashmet plays with warmth and deep feeling. Onyx's sound is clean, clear, and warmly atmospheric.

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