Ricky Hsiao's The Mystic World; Seong-Jin Cho's debut recording

In his first Mandarin album in 2002, blind Taiwanese singer-songwriter Ricky Hsiao touchingly declared to fans that You Are My Eyes.

In return, he now wants to be Your Ocean.

He croons in the breezy number: "My fishes need not fear anything/Because I'm your ocean/Realising your every dream/If there are tears, I will melt them with my embrace."

The title track also touches on the theme of dreams - the importance of holding onto them and not letting life set one adrift.

While there is an attempt to vary the tempo and mix things up, it is on the ballads that Hsiao's voice shines, illuminating a tangle of emotions on Stopped Clock, Home and Next Street Corner.



    Ricky Hsiao Warner Music Taiwan

    3/5 stars

On the last ballad, written by sodagreen's Wu Ching-feng, he sings poignantly: "The unknown world is so large/The world I've known is so small/The tears I've had are so heavy/Eternal joys so few."

Still, hope beckons and he vows: "I'll race with you to the streets of tomorrow."

Boon Chan

Almost immediately after his triumph at the 2015 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, 21-year-old South Korean pianist Cho Seong Jin's debut recording was issued, comprising wholly of live performances from the concours.



    Seong-Jin Cho

    Deutsche Grammophon 479 5332

    5/5 stars

His mastery of broad-sweeping canvases is immediately felt in the 24 Preludes (Op. 28), made up of variegated miniatures which exhibit every facet of Chopin's technical armamentarium and emotional breadth and depth.

His impeccably polished technique is matched by a wholehearted involvement which made this music his own.

One would also be hard put to find a reading of the Second Sonata In B Flat Minor (Op. 35, or Funeral March Sonata) with as much passionate ardour.

Here, the names of Pollini, Argerich or Ohlsson may be cited, all of whom are enshrined in a pantheon of great Chopinists which Cho now joins.

The disc is completed by the Nocturne In C Minor (Op. 48 No. 1) and that most overplayed of Polonaises, the Heroic In A Flat Major (Op. 53), both sounding fresh.

Chang Tou Liang

That the music of The Beatles, like the works of J.S. Bach, could be translated into genres far removed from the original form, is testament of its universality and immortality.



    Milos Karadaglic, Guitar

    Mercury Classics 481 2310

    5/5 stars

This album of Beatles standards by Montenegrin guitarist Milos Karadaglic is a winner not just because of his irrepressible personality, but also because of the idiomatic and seamless arrangements by Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad.

The insouciant spirit of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's Blackbird, Come Together, The Fool On The Hill, And I Love Her, Eleanor Rigby and All My Loving, or George Harrison's Something and Here Comes The Sun, are not lost despite the absence of words.

There is also a solo arrangement of Yesterday - by no less than Japanese modernist icon Toru Takemitsu, who, despite his Zen-like austerity, was a massive fan of the Fab Four - one which resonates deeply in its simplicity.

There are cameo appearances by Gregory Porter (Let It Be), Tori Amos (She's Leaving Home), cellist Steven Isserlis (Michelle) and sitar virtuosa Anoushka Shankar (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds), all of which add to the glitter factor of this already desirable disc.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe