Hot Tracks

Xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook (above) wrote a new song, Wish To Tell You, for the Crescendo Original Soundtrack.
Xinyao pioneer Liang Wern Fook (above) wrote a new song, Wish To Tell You, for the Crescendo Original Soundtrack.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Channel 8 television series Crescendo casts the spotlight on the home-grown Mandarin music movement that is xinyao.

But as the soundtrack makes clear, it wants to be more than an exercise in nostalgia. As the movement's pioneer Liang Wern Fook says in the promotional material: "I hope that xinyao is not just an antique; we still have new songs, fresh talent. In my heart, what's precious about xinyao is its spirit of innovation."

So apart from guitar-backed covers of xinyao classics by a fresh generation of singers, there are three new numbers here.



    Various artists

    Ocean Butterflies Music

    3.5/5 stars

There are the evocative ballads Wish To Tell You, written by Liang and huskily performed by A-do; and Look At You Quietly, written by stalwarts Roy Loi and Xing Zenghua and sung by Tang Wei'en. The light-hearted Happy Youths is a slice-of-life ditty from new names He Shenghui and Guo Weiqi.

The rest of the collection comprises faithful and competent takes on songs such as Xie Hou (Encounter), Lian Zhi Qi (Love's Refuge) and, of course, that anthem of a generation, Xi Shui Chang Liu (Friendship Forever). There are also pop hits from the likes of singers Stefanie Sun (I'm Not Sad) and Mavis Hee (Regret) included here.

I will always have a soft spot for the originals, though, as those were the versions that formed the soundtrack to my life.

Here's to hoping that xinyao's waters keep on flowing and continue to nourish Singapore's music scene.

Boon Chan

Brazil-born German singer Yara Linss conjures the Latin rhythms and sunny moods of her birthplace with summery breeziness in this beguiling album. The opening track La, with its distant flute and twinkly guitar introduction, sets the scene with enchanting immediacy. The lazy pacing, steady guitar rhythms and darting flute melody paint an aural image of a long drive along a coastline.

  • JAZZ


    Yara Linss

    Double Moon


    4/5 stars

The 35-year-old singer possesses a confident soprano that soars with power and coos with gentle ease without tipping into girly breathlessness. This sets her apart from the legions of wannabe girl jazz singers who seem to equate lack of breath control with seductive singing. Team her supremely supple voice with the nimble fingers of her Brazilian guitarist Joao Luis Nogueira and the results are vibrant and eminently listenable.

Her music is rooted in the earthier samba-cancao of Luiz Bonfa rather than the slick bossa nova of Joao Gilberto, as can be heard in the strolling skip of Xote da Maestrina. But her sensibilities are definitely contemporary and draw from world music and literature. The funky rapped intro of Partido Alto segues seamlessly into an easy, danceable samba melody.

The carnivalesque percussion of the eponymous track is a dancey accompaniment to the lyrics that are based on Brazilian poet Maria Lucia Dal Farra's poem, while airily contemplative Ceu borrows from a poem by Czech Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska. It may all be sung in Portuguese, but the music communicates varied moods effortlessly. Easy listening but with surprising depths, this is one to set on repeat mode.

Ong Sor Fern

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was best known for his Viennese waltz miniatures for violin such as Liebesfreud, Liebesleid and Schon Rosmarin, which are included in this slim-line three-disc album from Warner Classics' Itzhak Perlman retrospective.



    Itzhak Perlman, Violin/Samuel Sanders, Piano

    Warner Classics (3CDs)

    5/5 stars

Kreisler also wrote plenty of transcriptions of other composers' music, from songs such as the traditional Irish tune Londonderry Air to Lehar's Serenade From Frasquita, showpieces by Paganini and Tartini (Devil's Trill Sonata) and dances galore with Dvorak, Brahms and de Falla among them.

More controversially, he had passed off several original compositions in the antique style as long-lost works of long-dead Baroque composers such as Couperin, Boccherini and Dittersdorf, but eventually owned up to the deception.

These are charming works which find veteran American fiddler Itzhak Perlman in the best mood for delightful bonbons. His ever-sweet tone, fulsome yet never cloying, is ideally suited to this evergreen repertoire.

Recorded during the mid-1970s, these performances will never lose their shine.

Chang Tou Liang

It has been 26 years since the death of Russian-American pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989), yet his legend resonates strongly among those who were fortunate to have experienced him live in concert as well as those who can only dream of it.



    Sony Classical 88843054582

    (50 CDs)

    5/5 stars

This box-set contains unedited recordings of concerts which have never been released in full. These include 25 solo recitals and a sizzling 1978 performance of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic led by Zubin Mehta.

Although his repertoire was vast, he showcased only a small segment and had distinct preferences. There are seven performances of Beethoven's Sonata No. 28 In A Major (Op. 101), making for fascinating comparisons. His highly strung performances of the Second Sonatas by Chopin and Rachmaninov should not be missed for their sheer voltage alone.

His love for Schumann was incomparable, as the performances of the Concerto Without Orchestra, Kreisleriana and Humoreske attest. Appearing for the first time are two readings of Carnaval from recitals in 1983, by which time his playing had become ragged and fragmented.

This lavish set tips the scales at almost 2kg, but is well worth its weight in gold.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe