Hot Tracks

Seven albums in, Chris Brown still can't quite decide whether he wants to be a pop act, an R&B act or a rapper.

Even within his exploration of each genre, his material is touch-and-go and borders on the banal.

In an album named after his first-born daughter, the album focuses surprisingly little on what seems to have been a life-changing event for him. While he dotes on her on Instagram, at 26, it seems Brown is still concerned with getting drunk and having sex - the subject matter of most of his songs.

Gone are the days of Top 10 Chris Brown pop tunes. Dance tracks such as Fine By Me and Zero are not nearly as successful as his one-off guest spot on Deorro's EDM banger Five More Hours. They are, at best, a lukewarm effort, compared with his chart-topping smashes of previous albums such as Don't Wake Me Up.

  • R&B POP

  • ROYALTY (DELUXE VERSION)

    Chris Brown

    RCA

    2/5 stars

There are the attempts at gangster rap, such as on Wrist, featuring Solo Lucci. For all that talent, Brown seems capable of only talking about women in the context of sex.

The slow R&B-pop number, Little More (Royalty), is the only indication of an ode to his daughter. Even with supposedly heartfelt lines such as "Like a vitamin you put back my energy, you're making me stronger, and bring out the best of me", it is an unconvincing effort.

Royalty is an overall lacklustre offering by the former R&B pop prince.

Anjali Raguraman


This anthology of short encore-like pieces for cello and piano celebrates Yo-Yo Ma's 60th birthday last year, as well as his fruitful 31-year partnership with British pianist Kathryn Stott (they performed at Victoria Concert Hall in 1993 when Ma made his Singapore debut).

  • CLASSICAL

  • SONGS FROM THE ARC OF LIFE

    Yo-Yo Ma, Cello

    Kathryn Stott, Piano

    Sony Classical

    88875 10316 2

    4.5/5 stars

The title refers to the works the performers and their listeners have enjoyed at various stages of life, essentially a nostalgic journey of music from childhood to the reminiscences from a bygone age.

Many popular favourites have been included, such as the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria, Brahms' Lullaby, Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me, Faure's Apres Un Reve, Elgar's Salut D'Amour, Saint-Saens' The Swan and Schubert's Ave Maria - mostly slow and meditative numbers.

There are some rarities thrown into the mix, including Frederick Delius' virtually unknown Romance, Italian cellist-composer Giovanni Sollima's Tema III from Il Bell'antonio (based on a 1960s Italian film) and the longest track, Praise To The Eternity Of Jesus from Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time.

Ma's unfailingly gorgeous tone, coupled with Stott's sensitive accompaniment, makes this enjoyable and easy listening.

Chang Tou Liang


It seems almost inconceivable that the Second Violin Concerto by Florence-born composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), also called "The Prophets", is virtually unknown.

  • OBSCURE CLASSICS

  • CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO VIOLIN CONCERTO NO. 2 'THE PROPHETS'/ CONCERTO ITALIANO

    Tianwa Yang, Violin

    SWR Symphony Orchestra

    Naxos 8.573135

    4.5/5 stars

It was written for the great violinist Jascha Heifetz and premiered in 1933 at Carnegie Hall with Arturo Toscanini conducting the New York Philharmonic.

The Jewish-Italian composer was driven out of his homeland by Mussolini's Fascist regime, settling in Beverly Hills where he composed as many as 250 film scores and taught composers such as John Williams, Henry Mancini and Andre Previn.

The Judaist prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah, inspired the three movements and the work is a lush score which looks forward to the music of those biblical epics starring Charlton Heston.

The First Violin Concerto (1926), also known as Concerto Italiano, is just as accessible for its memorable tunes and highly lyrical violin solo part. Both play for just more than half an hour and are eminently suitable for programming in concerts.

Beijing-born former child prodigy violinist Tianwa Yang, justly celebrated for her recordings of Sarasate's music, plays with finesse and virtuosic flair.

For lovers of the byways of romantically conceived music, this is required listening.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe