Hot Tracks

ASIAN POP

JAY CHOU'S BEDTIME STORIES

Jay Chou

Sony Music Entertainment

3 stars

Fourteen albums in, Mandopop king Jay Chou can still put out catchy and chart-scaling songs.

But the inventiveness which marked his early output seems to have been largely spent.

The propulsive beats, the rapid- fire rhythms, the sunny ukulele strumming - they are familiar from earlier works.

On the title track, Bedtime Stories, what starts off as a music- box melody soon gets its tempo tightened and there are even snatches of falsetto singing as the mood grows increasingly frenetic: "You still don't want to sleep, but I want to sleep".

Welcome to fatherhood, Chou. His daughter, Hathaway, with model Hannah Quinlivan, was born last July.

Now, finally, he has a reason to play the jester; previously, his inclination towards kiddy-sounding pop, on discs such as Exclamation Mark (2011), was puzzling.

At the mere age of four months, Hathaway inspired Chou to come up with Past Life's Lover.

Her random tinkling gets her credited as co-composer, which has to be a record of sorts, though you have to wonder how much of that is down to parental pride.

Some of the material - including the radio-friendly A Little and Shouldn't Be, the attention-grabbing ballad with A-mei - seem to be here merely to tick a box, though.

The duet itself is pretty decent, but their voices simply do not go together.

Among his collaborations, the best remains the unexpected pairing of Chou's unmistakably contemporary pipes with Fei Yu-ching's smooth, evergreen croon in Faraway from 2006's Still Fantasy.

Commercial considerations lie behind other numbers.

Now You See Me is Chou's contribution to the thriller movie, Now You See Me 2, in which he has a small role. With its inclusion of gaming lingo, Hero points to his entry into that world as the leader of an e-sport team.

Ahead of his sold-out The Invincible concert in Singapore on Sept 3, the release of Bedtime Stories is a timely and canny move.

But it would be nice if the whole thing did not feel so calculated.

Boon Chan


CLASSICAL

MARTHA ARGERICH & FRIENDS LIVE FROM LUGANO 2015

Martha Argerich et al Warner Classics 0825646285495 (3 CDs)

5 stars

The feast of chamber music continues with this ongoing series of highlights from the Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival, inspired by the 75-year-old Argentina-born piano virtuosa's irrepressible pianism. Even if she appears spottily in just five works, there is much to enjoy.

Argerich partners her compatriot Eduardo Hubert in Luis Bacalov's Portena (Latitud 34°36'30"), a concerto for two pianos and orchestra, in tribute to her hometown of Buenos Aires, where tango meets high art.

In Debussy's En Blanc Et Noir, also for two pianos, she is joined by Stephen Kovacevich (father of her third daughter, Stephanie) in a heady and exciting reading.

From the trio of Griguoli, Stella and Tomassi come more arrangements for six-hands of music by Philip Glass and Alberto Ginastera.

Elsewhere, the familiar (Brahms' Clarinet Trio and Horn Trio and Bartok's Romanian Dances) sits happily with the obscure (Ferdinand Ries' Piano Quintet and Turina's Piano Trio No. 2) and no reading by Argerich's younger colleagues is less than fully committed.

There are rumblings that this year's festival might be the last, so every minute of passionate music-making here is precious.

Chang Tou Liang


CLASSICAL

HUBERMAN FESTIVAL 1982

Soloists with Israel Philharmonic

Zubin Mehta (conductor)

DG Eloquence 482 2728 (2 CDs)

5 stars

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded as the Palestine Orchestra by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman in 1936.

In December 1982, the orchestra's music director for life, Zubin Mehta, gathered a stellar cast of Jewish violinists to perform in the week-long Huberman Festival, the highlights of which have been included in this double-disc set.

The first CD has Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Shlomo Mintz and Itzhak Perlman, each playing one concerto from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

The sense of occasion and camaraderie between soloists and orchestra are clearly palpable.

Heard for the first time on CD are Bach's Double Violin Concerto In D Minor, with Stern and Mintz, and Vivaldi's popular Concerto For 4 Violins In B Minor, where Ivry Gitlis and Ida Haendel join in for an irresistible romp.

The second disc is completed by the famous account of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante In E Flat Major with Perlman (violin) and Zukerman (viola), memorable for its tonal warmth and lyricism.

Chang Tou Liang

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