Hot Tracks

Thanks to the size of the China market, the focus of most artists is on Mandopop rather than Cantopop nowadays.

Malaysian Gin Lee has gone against the flow. She moved to Hong Kong after her 2009 Mandarin debut, One & Only, and is putting out Cantonese works.

Actually, this could be a smart way to stand out from other artists. She might have taken part in Taiwan's Super Idol, Hong Kong's The Voice and The Voice Of China, but televised reality contests seem to be a rite of passage for most singers out there.

Lee's soothing pipes sound at home in Cantonese and shine in mid-tempo tracks that offer comfort and encouragement.

  • ASIAN POP

  • BEGIN

    Gin Lee

    Universal Music

    3.5/5 stars

She sings on the glistening opening number Aura: "Those who can still trust after having promises to them broken/Will forever have a halo on their heads, even if they're hurt inside."

There is a warm tenderness on heartbreak ballad Pair, in which words are repeated in a reference to the song title - as though to suggest that even if couples cannot stay together, some things can.

Also included here are Mandarin versions of Aura and the melancholic A Man Living On The Moon, but I remain partial to the more lyrical Cantonese versions.

Boon Chan


The Italian Sergio Fiorentino (1927-1998) was possibly the greatest pianist nobody has ever heard of. His promising early career was curtailed by injuries sustained in an airplane accident and he spent an inordinate span of his life teaching the piano.

  • CLASSICAL

  • SERGIO FIORENTINO: THE BERLIN RECORDINGS

    Sergio Fiorentino, Piano

    Piano Classics 0033 (10 CDs)

    5/5 stars

Pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli referred to him as "il solo altro pianista" (the only other pianist) and these recordings made near the end of his life are a testament of a visionary musical mind coupled with transcendent technique.

His repertoire was immense, spanning Bach (original as well as his own transcriptions) to the late Romantics, with Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Franck and Liszt in between. His magisterial performances of sonatas by Liszt, Rachmaninov, Scriabin (Nos. 1, 2 and 4) and Prokofiev (No. 8) capture the spontaneity and risk-taking of live performances, which are rarely found in studio recordings.

The bonus disc of Schumann's Carnaval and shorter pieces by Debussy, Scarlatti, Moszkowski, Faure and more Liszt is sheer pleasure, comparable with the vaunted treasures of Horowitz or Rubinstein.

Listen and believe.

Chang Tou Liang


Nigunim is the Hebrew word for music-making and is the title of Israeli-American composer Avner Dorman's Violin Sonata No. 3. In four movements and playing for almost 20 minutes, it is the longest work in this album of Jewish-inspired music by American violinist Gil Shaham and his sister Orli.

  • 20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS

  • NIGUNIM, HEBREW MELODIES

    Gil Shaham, Violin

    Orli Shaham, Piano

    Canary Classics CC10

    5/5 stars

Although the work does not quote pre-existing melodies, it is imbued with the deep contemplation, inconsolable sorrow and unbridled celebrations associated with the trials and tribulations of God's chosen people.

The term can be both sacred and secular. Its singular, Nigun, is the soulfully voiced slow movement of Ernest Bloch's well-known Baal Shem Suite, which encompasses different aspects of Hasidic traditions in music. In the same vein are Josef Bonime's Danse Hebraique and Leo Zeitlin's Eli Zion, which are equally evocative as Russian Joseph Achron's Hebrew Melody Op. 33 (his most popular work) and Two Hebrew Pieces Op. 35.

Although not Jewish himself, American film composer John Williams wins a place on this disc for his score for Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning Holocaust movie Schindler's List (1993), of which three pieces have been included here. The Shaham siblings' advocacy of their musical heritage is heartfelt and they are resonantly recorded.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe