Kronos Quartet / Wu Man

Tan Dun: Ghost Opera

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For Tan Dun's Ghost Opera, the Kronos Quartet had their instrumental abilities stretched to include various percussion, wind instruments, and vocals and were joined by pipa virtuoso Wu Man. The first sound one hears is a hand being drawn through a bowl of water. Soon, strains of Bach appear, accompanied by the pipa, an ancient Chinese lute, and the voiced prayer of a monk. Bach figures into much of the work, in fact, as if being played by a traveling string quartet making their way through back-country China. The piece slides comfortably between these areas, the strings sometimes taking on an Asian character that compliments the Baroque allusions in an oddly effective manner. The music is generally soft in nature with, aside from the Bach, frequent references to Chinese folk songs of a pastoral quality. It's almost lulling at times, though there's enough subtlety of detail to keep the attentive listener engaged. Those who only cottoned to Tan Dun after his success several years after this recording, with the soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, should enjoy this carefully considered, meditative piece.

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