New albums by The Teng Ensemble and Katya Apekisheva

Here is a very enjoyable exercise in nostalgia as The Teng Ensemble, Singapore's hip Chinese chamber crossover ensemble, applies a new twist to the melodies people sang during their younger days.

Forget those National Day Parade mash-ups. What you have here instead are slicked-up versions of old friends in spiffy outfits by Chow Jun Yi (composer) and Huang Peh Linde (arranger).

Childhood packs in four songs - Ikan Kekek, Burung Kakak Tua, Ni Wa Wa (Mud Doll) and San Lun Che (Tricycle). City By Moonlight is an improvisation of Tian Mi Mi, the supposedly subversive Chinese hit which originated from the Indonesian song, Dayung Sampan.

The eight-member Teng Ensemble cleverly merges the sounds of electronic and acoustic instruments in a seamless manner, with melodic lines led by Samuel Wong's pipa, Yang Ji Wei's sheng, Gerald Teo's cello and Phua Ee Kia's falsetto vocals.



    The Teng Ensemble

    Cross Ratio Entertainment A21

    4.5/5 stars

Listen for some very astute juxtapositions, such as in Gratitude, with familiar songs involving mothers and fathers; or Journey, which merges Geylang Sipaku Geylang with Rasa Sayang where Syafiqah Sallehin's accordion makes a cameo.

Chang Tou Liang

It was an established fact that Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) composed at the piano.




    Katya Apekisheva & Charles Owen, Piano 4 Hands

    Quartz 2117

    4.5/5 stars

His frenetic and rhythmically complex orchestral scores were all conceived with 10 or 20 fingers on a keyboard. While instrumental colour may be wanting, harmonic lushness and rhythmic vibrancy could still be reproduced in such piano transcriptions.

Petrushka (1911) was his second ballet, making advances from the late-Romantic opulence of The Firebird, such as the introduction of his "Petrushka chord", a classic example of polytonality. The exuberance of the Russian Dance and Shrovetide Fair sections are headily recreated with the percussive sonorities from the piano.

His next masterpiece, The Rite Of Spring (1913), took piano textures - and by extension, symphonic writing - to a new dimension. The ballet music heard on piano still provides an equally vivid experience, especially with the rapid-fire interplay of four hands in a very narrow space.

Russian Katya Apekisheva and Briton Charles Owen, co-founders of the London Piano Festival, make excellent partners, complementing each other's sensitivity with outright virtuosity and vice versa.

There are recent excellent recordings on four hands of The Rite Of Spring, notably by Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim (on Deutsche Grammophon), but the London-based duo more than hold their own.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe