New albums by Angela Chang, Simon Callaghan, and more

If Taiwan's Angela Chang had a signature song, it would be Invisible Wings. The ballad from her third album Pandora (2006) has a message of hope and encouragement that resonates strongly with fans.

The opening track here, I'm Not Afraid, is in the same vein. It starts with Chang musing on the universality of pain ("Everyone is struggling/Everyone has somewhere they wish to go") before she soars with the imagery of flight ("I'm flying through the dark night/Searching for that starlight that is mine/Though I know that honesty will get you hurt/I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid").

The sentiment is familiar, but the track still works, thanks to its memorable melodic riff and her full- blooded delivery. Perhaps such songs strike a chord with Chang personally, who had to overcome a very public and unpleasant splitting of ways from her mother in the late noughties.

Another strong number here is the power ballad, Before Goodbye. She croons: "I've made it through those few years of utmost pain/All those familiar people, every face makes me reminisce."

  • ASIAN POP

  • HEAD OVER HEELS

    Angela Chang

    Ocean Butterflies

    3/5 stars

In contrast, the peppy joy-of-falling-in-love title track feels a little out of place here. But her fans should be happy to see this buoyant side of her.

Boon Chan

Singer puts family conflict behind her


Spare a thought for English composer Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-1972). The contemporary of Benjamin Britten, a composer of six piano concertos and three symphonies, has virtually been forgotten.

  • OBSCURE CLASSICS

  • COKE 24 PRELUDES

    15 VARIATIONS & FINALE

    Simon Callaghan, piano

    Somm 0147

    4.5 stars

He shared a piano teacher with the future Queen Elizabeth II and a composition teacher with Singaporean composer Kam Kee Yong. He was also a good friend of Rachmaninov's, whose composition style influenced his own.

Witness his 24 Preludes for piano, laid out in two sets (Op. 33 and 34) between 1938 and 1941, which are rich in late Romantic sensibilities and harmonies, dark and brooding in demeanour. Running about 50 minutes, they are longer than Chopin and Scriabin's Preludes, but less discursive than Rachmaninov's own.

The 15 Variations & Finale (Op. 37) has the potential to be a classic. It is imaginatively written, with precedents in Mendelssohn's Variations Serieuses and Rachmaninov's Chopin Variations.

Young English pianist Simon Callaghan, who presents these premiere recordings, is a virtuoso and excellent guide in this arcane repertoire.

Like York Bowen and Nikolai Medtner, whose music was once scandalously neglected, Coke's day would surely come.

Chang Tou Liang


Long before American Idol, William Hung and Susan Boyle, there was Florence Foster Jenkins. The socialite captured the imagination of an entire nation by selling out Carnegie Hall in 1944 despite having the unenviable reputation of being the "world's worst singer". The word "despite" might easily be replaced by "because of" as her legendary badness was genuinely entertaining, as portrayed in the Steven Frears movie that bears her name.

  • CROSSOVER CLASSICS

  • FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

    Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

    Decca 483 0201

    4.5/5 stars

There are no original tracks in the film soundtrack, but the Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep hits execrable heights with true gusto.

As if to illustrate the gulf between hubristic ambition and actual insight, there are two tracks of Delibes' Bell Song from Lakme, first sung by coloratura soprano Aida Garifullina (who played Lily Pons in the movie) followed by Streep's version. The original music by Alexandre Desplat conducting the London Metropolitan Orchestra captures the big band sound of 1930s and 1940s America.

For pure escapism, Streep's approximations of Johann Strauss' Adele's Laughing Song (Die Fledermaus), McMoon's Like A Bird and Mozart's Queen Of The Night Aria (The Magic Flute) will have one in stitches.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe