Hot Tracks

The title of this album harks back to one of Nicky Wu's best-known solo hits, Wish You A Smooth Journey, taken from his 1992 debut solo album, Wind Chaser.

Of course, the Taiwanese was already a star before that as the best-looking member of the boy band trio, Little Tigers, and not their strongest singer.

Maybe this is a reason for the 19-year break between the new album and his last, 1997's Hero.

Another is that he has been focusing on acting, including in the hit period television drama, Scarlet Heart (2011).

  • ASIAN POP

  • JOURNEY

    Nicky Wu

    Hove

    2/5 stars

On Journey, the opening synthesizer strains of Lonely By Nature already sound dated and, unfortunately, Wu seems resolutely stuck in the past. Even the title track fails to muster much excitement.

Perhaps the song of greatest interest is Hand In Hand, a duet with Cecilia Liu, his co-star from Scarlet Heart and now his wife. The track itself is nothing too exciting, though it does end on a sweet note with the chiming of wedding bells.

Boon Chan


German singer and trumpeter Till Bronner belongs firmly in the chilled-out West Coast school of jazz.

  • JAZZ

  • THE GOOD LIFE

    Till Bronner

    Sony Music

    4/5 stars

His trumpet-playing - with its snappy bop constructions delivered in the silky muted timbres of early Miles Davis and classic Chet Baker - oozes easy sophistication without straining the brain too much. This might sound like damning with faint praise, but Bronner's low-key charm is a rare commodity in these days of overproduced and underwhelming music.

This programme of jazz standards is appealingly understated.

Backed by sturdy journeymen, including bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and pianist Larry Goldings, Bronner works his way through offerings such as Sweet Lorraine and Change Partners.

The opening title track, featuring his burnished honey trumpet on an instrumental version, neatly avoids vocal comparisons with Frank Sinatra's definitive take.

Bronner may not have Sinatra's macho swagger, but he has Fred Astaire's conversational style and Baker's wistfully seductive tones when he sings.

Just listen to his flirty persuasion on Come Dance With Me and I May Be Wrong.

This is slick stylish musicianship that bears repeated listens.

Ong Sor Fern


Emil Gilels (1916-1985) was one of two great Ukraine-born Soviet pianists to charm the West during the height of the Cold War; the other is the longer-lived and better-known Sviatoslav Richter.

  • CLASSICAL

  • EMIL GILELS

    Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings

    DG 479 4651 (24 CDs)

    5/5 stars

Commemorating the centenary of Gilels' birth, the German yellow label has reissued its archive of his complete studio recordings, made during a relatively short window from 1970 to 1985.

His playing is warm and generous, extremely musical and never obsessed with virtuosity for its own sake. These are best heard in both of Brahms' piano concertos (with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Eugen Jochum) - possibly the best in the catalogue - Brahms' First Piano Quartet, Schubert's Trout Quintet, the short musings of Grieg's Lyric Pieces and four-hand works by Mozart and Schubert (with his daughter Elena).

His premature death following a botched surgical procedure meant his Beethoven sonata cycle was tantalisingly incomplete (he had five sonatas to go), but one fortunately gets to hear his Gramophone Award-winning Hammerklavier Sonata, which is magnificent.

Gilels' earlier recordings on Melodiya from the 1930s to the 1950s issued by the Westminster label include recitals (with Scarlatti, Schumann, Liszt, Medtner and various encores) and chamber music. But there is no Khachaturian piano concerto as one cover wrongly displays, but the third concertos of Prokofiev and Kabalevsky.

Here are many hours of rewarding listening.

Chang Tou Liang


First, kudos to Greek conductor Teodor Currentzis and his orchestra and opera chorus from the Russian city of Perm for attempting this adventurous coupling of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky with the celebration of Russian peasantry as a common theme.

  • CLASSICAL

  • TCHAIKOVSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO STRAVINSKY LES NOCES

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Violin

    MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis

    Sony Classical 88875165122 /

    3.5/5 stars

There are staged photographs of a village wedding with him and Russian-Austrian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja as husband and wife with love letters serving as programme notes. As a concept, this is first-rate.

But Kopatchinskaja's "brave new world" view of Tchaikovsky's popular Violin Concerto is one of the ugliest on record.

Her preening demeanour, alternating slashing and percussive bowing, with deliberate extremes of dynamics and dry vitriolic tone is jarring. This may come across as exciting in concert, but makes for irritating repeated listening. She decries "moronic violinism" in her notes, but that is exactly what she serves up.

This is fortunately offset by one of the best recordings of Stravinsky's choral ballet Les Noces (The Wedding), which truly captures the raucous and earthy happenings of rustic matrimonials. Performing in Russian, the soloists and chorus are undeniably authentic and vividly recorded.

So, it is two stars for the Tchaikovsky and five for Stravinsky, which makes 31/2 on average.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe