Hot Tracks

On his second album, which comes seven years after his debut album, Roles (2008), Love 97.2FM DJ Wallace Ang shows he has a decent set of pipes for singing and, on a few tracks, some potential as a songwriter .

Opening number Suspended Happiness builds drama with a melody that has him shooting for the high notes: "Happiness that's suspended/ Can't embrace it, can't shake it off".

The lazy, jazzy vibe of Inconsolable strikes a refreshingly different note. However, it seems that the first half has been packed with stronger material.



    Wallace Ang

    Cross Ratio


    3/5 stars

As the proceedings take a dip with run-of-the-mill love ballads Good For Both Of Us and The You Before My Eyes, the record ends up feeling top-heavy.

Boon Chan

British-Irish boyband One Direction's fifth studio album sounds like a tribute to the best of British pop-rock: Hey Angel has the strings and the drums of The Verve's iconic Bittersweet Symphony; Infinity has the sweeping euphoria of a Coldplay number; Olivia, a jaunty piano number with horns, is a throwback to the Beatles; and What A Feeling is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.



    One Direction

    Columbia, Syco

    4/5 stars

The album has already spawned top 10 songs with the first two singles, Perfect and Drag Me Down, both of which are the band's usual stadium anthems with undeniably catchy pop hooks.

Without the distinctive vocals of bad boy Zayn Malik - their best singer until he left the band in March - Liam Payne and Harry Styles take turns on lead vocals, doing an adequate job. Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan also step up to sing, but they are far less effective.

With the imminent separation of the band, there is no tour planned for this release, as each member will be taking a hiatus to pursue solo projects next year.

So the album is the perfect send-off for Directioners nursing broken hearts.

Anjali Raguraman

So the Chinese phenomenon goes to Paris, but he does not play a single bar of French music in his latest album.



    Lang Lang

    Sony Classical 88875117582

    4/5 stars

Instead, this double-disc set showcases Chopin's Four Scherzos and the 12 short pieces that make up Tchaikovsky's The Seasons.

A looser interpretation of the title allows for the facts that the Polish Chopin had French ancestry and settled in France for good, and the Russian Tchaikovsky was a Francophone and Francophile.

Some bad habits which plagued Lang's performances of Chopin's four Ballades in Singapore linger, such as banging, ear-catching accents and deliberate rubatos for their own sake.

The First Scherzo suffers the most, but thankfully, it improves with the other three.

The Tchaikovsky pieces, each corresponding to the months of a calendar year, fare better. Each is well-characterised, such as the popular Barcarolle (June), Autumn Song (October) and Troika (November).

Even if certain liberties are taken to stretch out the music, these do not come across as crass. Devotees need not hesitate.

Chang Tou Liang

Concerts are one-in-a-lifetime events, but some linger long in the memory because of the sheer artistry and passion displayed by the artists involved.



    Martha Argerich

    (Piano) et al/Deutsche Grammophon  479 5096 (2 CDs)

    5/5 stars

One such concert took place at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland on July 27, 2007, with Argentina-born pianist Martha Argerich holding court in all but four minutes of its 21/2 hours.

Here, she had selected her partners and the works to be performed, essentially a "carte blanche", or blank cheque, for the programme. And what a musical feast it proved to be. Her only solo was to be in Schumann's Kinderszenen (Scenes From Childhood), a speciality which she treats with much tenderness.

The spirit of chamber music reigns in Beethoven's Ghost Trio (Op. 70 No. 1) with violinist Julian Rachlin and cellist Mischa Maisky. The sizzling performance is matched by the folk-inspired dissonance of Bartok's Violin Sonata No. 1, with violinist Renaud Capucon, and Lutoslawski's Paganini Variations for two pianos, with an equally energised Gabriela Montero.

Lyricism comes in Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, where Yuri Bashmet's viola replaces the customary cello, and Lang Lang in deferential good behaviour as piano partner to Argerich for Schubert's Grande Rondeau (D.951) and Ravel's Mother Goose Suite.

Chang Tou Liang

Why do music-lovers still listen to monoaural recordings when modern stereophonic and digital sound exists? In the 1940s, there were 78 rpm shellacs, which played for 41/2 minutes each side. Then came the long-playing 33 rpm long-playing records (or LPs), which were a boon, as one could hear an entire symphony by Mozart or Haydn uninterrupted.



    Decca  478 7946 (53 CDs)

    5/5 stars

There were fewer orchestras and recording artists then, so that answer has to be the passionate performances themselves, which have not dimmed over the decades.

This Decca retrospective of recordings from 1944 to 1956 pays tribute to its patented Full Frequency Range Recordings (ffrr), which still sound vivid to this day. The pre-1948 recordings are drawn from earlier 78s, which eventually gave way to the LP, whose era ended in the mid-1980s.

The roster of artists is stellar, including conductors Ernest Ansermet (Stravinsky's Petrushka), Erich Kleiber (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) and the young Georg Solti (Bartok, Kodaly & Haydn); pianists Clifford Curzon (Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1) and Friedrich Gulda (Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata) and Moura Lympany (Rachmaninov and Khachaturian concertos); and violinists Alfredo Campoli, Christian Ferras and Ruggiero Ricci.

The playing is at an exalted level. This wonderful collection could be listened to straight through or sampled piecemeal, either of which would be immensely rewarding.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe