Review By Ettore Garzia,Percorsi Musicali,January 2013
Lei Liang’s approach to contemporary music is amazing: he belongs to a category of composers who does not use ethnic traditions in overly simplistic ways (as described in the CD liner notes), and he focuses his music on the “memory ”of his land - a sort of imaginary sounds that have been etched in his memory before he moved to the United States. These sounds stored in some part of his mind reappear at the right time in the compositional process: all musical instruments are involved in these sound processing of frames of mind. I really think that few composers of his native China have been able to produce a result so special, perhaps Chou Wen-chung might be his natural predecessor, but the originality of these four recent compositions, recorded on Naxos Records,
“Verge” is a composition that involves 18 solo strings, in which we can appreciate the work done by Liang about structure: the musicians are used in a way unconnected in the background, nearly “cosmic”…the idea is to be sensitive spectators of an unknown journey where a hint of a Mongolian melody reveals to us a comet, where the mixture of violins is acidic and violent, or provides situations with rich orchestral dynamics, in the best tradition of contemporary composition. Magnus Lindberg was director of a recording with the New York Philharmonic. This piece probably tries to explore the boundaries of purity of the Mongolian heterophony in the face of American avant-garde theories.
“Aural Hypothesis”, dedicated to Chou Wen-chung, is an attempt to represent Chinese calligraphy: in this composition for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and vibraphone, Liang is highly creative. He builds a “spatial” texture, almost a spectral form, with alternating moments when we can enjoy the contrast between auditory and silent spaces, and ultimately of a mysterious atmosphere. The performance of Callithumpian Consort conducted by Stephen Drury ensures an almost maniacal perfection of the work.
“Five Seasons”, for pipa and string quartet, is a musical simulation of some elements of nature related to the seasons (there are five due to Changxia, a transitional phase between the summer and autumn that binds it ideally to the Earth). As in the style of Lei, the strong points of the work (about 17 minutes in duration) are the solutions and the texture: the pizzicato in dynamic progress that seem to simulate flowing water, the youthful ghosts of Beijing’s cicadas, the quartet’s percussive attack that evokes Bartok and Cage, and the final mo