Marimbist Pius Cheung, a Canadian of Chinese background, has performed transcriptions of the likes of Bach's Goldberg Variations in the past. This little disc, recorded at a church in Ann Arbor, MI, that favors the marimba, consists entirely of his own compositions. These are in the nature of showpieces for Cheung's artistry, to be sure, but they're beautifully done, and they attain the elusive quality of making the sounds of the instrument into a discrete world of their own. Cheung's brief notes (in English only) state that he chose the title Symphonic Poem because he consistently thought about the work in orchestral terms even though it is for solo marimba. The listener will have no trouble believing this. The work is predominantly tonal, but the work leaves a greater impression with its variety of textures and especially its impressive dynamic range than with its thematic and tonal organization. The four etudes and a "musical moment" that conclude the program resemble their Romantic namesakes more closely; Cheung stretches into greater originality with his eight-movement symphonic poem. Likely to be embraced by percussionists, this release is also commended to presenters looking for a soloist who can fill a big space.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim