New albums from China's Della Ding Dang, jazz pianist Bill Charlap and American pianist Leon Fleisher

The ballad So You've Always Been Here is a sweet song which China's Della Ding Dang sings beautifully.

No power belting, no sustained high notes - just the moving realisation that the one you love has been patiently waiting for you all this time.

Despite the cliched sentiment, there is nothing hackneyed about her delicate delivery of indie singer-songwriter Europa Huang's tender tune: "Love at second sight, must be love/So you've been waiting, waiting for me to find myself/So you've always been here."

On the ballad Protective Colour, with lyrics by Singapore's Xiaohan, she shows her vulnerable side: "Coldness is my new protective colour/My temporary shell/This heart can't afford to be hurt now."



    Della Ding Dang

    B'in Music International

    3/5 stars

Elsewhere, Della Ding Dang's seventh album mixes things up with breezy fast-paced tracks such as Want To Fall In Love and the sassy retro pop of Intersect.

Still, it is the quieter moments that linger on in the mind.

Boon Chan

New Orleans may have been the birthplace of jazz, but New York is the city where the music grew up and got its sophisticated polish.

  • JAZZ


    Bill Charlap Trio Verve

    4/5 stars

Pianist Bill Charlap is New York-born and -bred and his latest album, recorded with long-time musical partners in crime - bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (not related) - is an exercise in musical elegance.

Jazz aficionados will love the programme, which dusts off obscure gems such as Make Me Rainbows, an early John Williams tune for the 1967 movie Fitzwilly and composer Vernon Duke's pertly tripping Not A Care In The World. With the former, Charlap and his collaborators strip off the schmaltzy strings that smothered the original to find a sweetly sincere core. The latter tune is a joyously carefree romp that lives up to the title.

Charlap's playing combines fat textured chords with leanly articulated melody lines and his tuneful playing harks back to the kind of deceptively pared-down styles of Bill Evans and Count Basie. He keeps the delivery straight, with an unerring sense of the song's core. A tasteful delight of an album with nary a wrong note.

Ong Sor Fern

The venerated American pianist, Leon Fleisher, once afflicted with focal dystonia of the right hand, has returned to play piano repertoire for both hands. His wife and former student, Katherine Jacobson, joins him in this album in a lovely programme for piano duet.



    Leon Fleisher & Katherine Jacobson, Piano 4 Hands

    Sony Classical 88875064162

    4.5/5 stars

Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer (Love Song Waltzes), heard here without the voices, is a mellower follow-up to his Waltzes Op. 39. The Fleishers play with great sensitivity for the idiom and this gemutlich (carefree and relaxed like only the Viennese know how) feeling continues into Schubert's Fantasy In F Minor, which rises to dramatic height from its initial lilting indolence.

The concert closes with Lucien Garban's transcription for piano duet of Maurice Ravel's La Valse. Confined to a single keyboard, its range seems unusually constricted for the most part, but the duo generates a voluminous sound and much excitement towards its climactic end.

The encore is a four-hand arrangement of American composer William Bolcom's The Graceful Ghost Rag, rendered with rare finesse.

Chang Tou Liang

Here is an excellently programmed recital of piano music inspired by Western composers' fascination with the Orient.



    Geoffrey Saba, Piano Carnegie Concerts CC017

    4.5/5 stars

Its generous 77 minutes of exotica may be subdivided into three parts. First is the traditional musical picture-postcard views represented by Debussy's Estampes (Pagodas), which evokes the sound of gamelans; Godowsky's Gardens Of Buitenzorg (after the botanic gardens in Bogor); and Ravel's Jeux D'Eau, with its cascades of pentatonics.

The central section delves deeper with Szymanowski's Sheherazade (from Masques), Messiaen's complex Canteyodjaya (which, in Sanskrit, translates to "song of joy"), Australian Peter Sculthorpe's Harbour Dreaming and Indonesian Krisna Setiawan's AgMaTa 1, which relives techniques used in gamelan music and the kecak dance.

The final and lightest third part approximates kitsch, closing with Abram Chasins' Three Chinese Pieces and Percy Grainger's Beautiful Fresh Flower. Australia-born British pianist Geoffrey Saba has the technique, sense of colour and shade to do his selections justice and this is accompanied by well- researched programme notes.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe