Hot tracks

Sodagreen's new album

Taiwanese band Sodagreen (above) complete their four-season Vivaldi project with their latest album.
Taiwanese band Sodagreen (above) complete their four-season Vivaldi project with their latest album.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

ASIAN POP

WINTER ENDLESS

Sodagreen

Universal Music

*** 1/2

Singapore might not experience winter, but Sodagreen's ballad Rainy Night is still perfect for the season.

Lead vocalist Wu Ching-feng croons gently, offering comfort: "On a rainy night, your heart is shattered, let the rain quietly hide your tears."

Six years after the luminous Daylight Of Spring (2009), the acclaimed Taiwanese band finally complete their ambitious four-season Vivaldi project.

Following from the fervour of Summer/Fever (2009) and the melancholy of Autumn: Stories (2013) comes the darker-themed Winter Endless.

Song titles such as Accusing A Murderer, Dream Of Chernobyl and We Don't Know evoke death, destruction and uncertainty. As if in contrast, the music can be lush and orchestral, blooming against the stark imagery.

The band also venture into new territory with their first all-English track, but the lyrics seem rather plain in comparison to their Chinese ones, which draw on everything from Sisyphus of Greek myth to a nuclear plant explosion.

Album closer Must Keep Singing offers a glimmer of light, but Wu is weary and conflicted even as he soldiers on: "I must keep singing/I cannot keep trying/I must keep dreaming/I must keep cheating myself."

This seems like a rather sombre note on which to end the four seasons, so good thing there is a second disc.

It features largely instrumental pieces, including a four-movement piano concerto, Ode Of Winter.

It feels like the seed the band planted in Daylight Of Spring, in the track Symphonic Dream, has finally borne fruit.

The circle and cycle are complete.

Boon Chan


CLASSICAL

TCHAIKOVSKY

The Nutcracker

Stewart Goodyear, Piano

Steinway & Sons 30040/ *****

Here is an unusual version of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's popular ballet, The Nutcracker, for the festive season. The entire ballet in 24 movements has been arranged for piano solo by Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear. Some of the dances, such as Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy, Trepak (Russian Dance) and Pas De Deux, and numbers including the Miniature Overture and March, are popular and music lovers are already well served by the extremely handy Nutcracker Suite in eight movements.

However, Goodyear's transcription is a pianistic one that is also highly virtuosic. Unlike Mikhail Pletnev's famous concert suite, which takes liberties by adding lots more notes, or Percy Grainger's florid version of Waltz Of The Flowers, Goodyear is more faithful to the original orchestral score and closely follows the sequence of the story.

By packing all the music into the album's 82 minutes, there is a harried and hectic quality to some of the faster movements.

One would have liked more breathing space, but that would mean having to spill onto a second disc.

This is nevertheless a very good listen from a very good pianist.

Chang Tou Liang


CROSSOVER CLASSICS

CINEMA

Andrea Bocelli

Universal 00028948121441

*** 1/2

Never thought this pair of ears might enjoy a disc by the massively hyped vocal superstar Andrea Bocelli.

That is probably because the album is produced by David Foster and Bocelli is not singing the classics or attempting major opera house roles, but songs made famous by movies.

It does not help that his English is highly accented, such as in Leonard Bernstein's Maria (from West Side Story), Henry Mancini's Moon River (Breakfast At Tiffany's) and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music Of The Night (Phantom Of The Opera).

He is clearly out of his depth in Jerome Kern's Ol' Man River (Show Boat), usually sung by a bass or baritone at the very least. So it is a relief to hear the songs in Italian, despite the English versions being better known.

He is joined by pop stars Ariana Grande in Ennio Morricone's (Once Upon A Time In America), Nicole Scherzinger in No Llores Por Mi Argentina (Don't Cry For Me Argentina from Evita) and Karen Mok in Irving Berlin's Cheek To Cheek (Top Hat).

The orchestrations are redolent of film music and the amplified Bocelli completely dominates the airwaves. Good if you adore him, but not a disaster if you are neutral. Easy listening, nonetheless.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Hot tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe