Western labels, alert to the burgeoning market for classical music in China, are rushing to serve that market with boundary-crossing new releases. They are finding available repertoire from Chinese composers, covering a wide range from traditional music to modern Western styles flavored with Chinese elements. This disc is among the entries by Holland's Channel Classics label, which has created a special Channel of China line, and it's quite successful. In a culture with several centuries of experience adapting to Western influences, the idea of a program of Chinese Lieder -- Chinese-language songs (and a few English translations) with active, art song accompaniments -- is not so strange. The music has the variety of a program of Western art songs, and it is interesting even for the listener unfamiliar with Chinese music to observe how this is achieved. Several of the melodies originate from sources outside of Han Chinese culture, such as Mongolian, Kazakh, or Tatar folk song, and these pieces create new sets of pitches and accompanimental figures. The strongest force working in favor of the project is tenor Jingma Fan, who has worked in both China and the West and is a winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has a confident, crisp vibrato and an impressive pianissimo -- hear the final passages of Mayeela, track 13 -- and somehow the attitude of a German lieder singer. Mayeela is one of four pieces repeated in English translations at the end of the disc. Although these are on the order of literal translations and don't really scan well, they're intriguing, and Jingma has the intensity needed to put them across. Texts are given in the booklet in Chinese and English. Aimed at a Chinese market, this disc also makes a good choice for Westerners intrigued by new Asian developments of the Western concert tradition.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim