Eileen Huang

Ancient & Modern Chinese Music

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After a very long time in obscurity in China, the piano began to be used as an instrument in its own right in the 20th century, both with new compositions and more commonly with transcriptions of works for other instruments. Here, an alum from the Chinese Cultural Revolution breaks out with some items that were assuredly not part of the approved repertoire during her time with the government-sponsored orchestras. The album opens with an exercise from a work on the well-tempered scale, then moves into a transcription of a piece for a form of oboe. A Cantonese folk song leads the way to a contemporary composition for the piano, and a couple of Xinjiang folk songs lead back to a piece originally for the flute. The experimental "Spring Comes to the Village" is a new piece for piano, marking the last new item on the album halfway in. A ballet suite, a pair of folk songs, a piece from the Flower Drum tradition, and a zheng transcription all follow, clearing the way for a finale originally composed for the banhu. Huang's piano skills are certainly impressive, but the fact is that the piano doesn't lend itself well to Chinese forms. On the more meditative tracks usually associated with simple flute work, the piano comes out a bit too brash, and it often falls somewhat flat on the more powerful tracks. The overall impression for the listener, then, is that of an able performer playing music that perhaps isn't suited well to her instrument. Had she been performing Western classical music, one would hardly notice the failings, but attempting to adapt ancient forms hasn't proven a worthwhile endeavor.

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