Jocie Guo Meimei reclaims her name in new album; pianist Kenneth Hamilton tackles composer Ronald Stevenson

Jocie Guo Meimei is back to claim her name.

The Singaporean singer's career had stalled in China, where she was mistaken for the notorious charged with-illegal-gambling blogger Guo Meimei, to the extent that people thought that her big hit No More Panic (2005) had been performed by the Internet celebrity.

Perhaps because of that sobering experience, the singer seems more grown-up now. She still sounds sweet, but she has ditched the cutesy hits such as Mouse Loves Rice (2005) in favour of forlorn love ballads with titles including One Hundred Reasons To Be Alone and Loneliness.

She sings on Blue Sky Tears: "Don't say, black and white, rumours are vicious/Who says, right and wrong, hearts will shatter."



    Jocie Guo

    Ocean Butterflies Music

    3/5 stars

While Keep Going might be a love ballad, it contains an epiphany that she could well have gleaned from the sorry episode: "Time waits for no one/I'll just keep going alone."

Boon Chan

Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015) was one of Scotland's greatest musical treasures - described as "incapable of writing a genuinely easy piano piece" and a larger-than-life figure in the mould of Franz Liszt (West Linton near Edinburgh was his Weimar) and musical heir to pianist-composers such as Ferruccio Busoni and Percy Grainger.



    Prima Facie PFCD050

    4.5/5 stars

This recital album by his disciple Kenneth Hamilton is an excellent introduction to his contrapuntally complex yet accessible style. Not a single note is superfluous or wasted.

Of the three major works here, the best known is his Peter Grimes Fantasy, where themes from Benjamin Britten's opera are pithily compacted into eight minutes, much like in Busoni's Carmen Fantasy. Beltane Bonfire, inspired by a Scottish folk festival, is both fugal and virtuosic, a competition showpiece.

The monumental Symphonic Elegy For Liszt superficially resembles a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, but with distinct Scottish accents.

Stevenson is also shown as an effective miniaturist in his arrangements of Scottish ballads and Elizabethan dances, while his transcriptions of Ivor Novello's We'll Gather Lilacs and Richard Tauber's My Heart And I are so luscious as to be almost decadent. Hamilton cleverly throws in Rachmaninov's own Lilacs just to prove the point.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe