Hot Tracks

By2 (comprising Yumi, far right, and Miko, right) released their first album when they were 16 years old.
By2 (comprising Yumi, far right, and Miko, right) released their first album when they were 16 years old.PHOTO: OCEAN BUTTERFLIES MUSIC



    Ocean Butterflies International

    3/5 STARS

At the age of 23, Singaporean pop duo By2 are already music veterans.

Twins Miko and Yumi released their debut, 16 Underaged (2008), when they were, surprise, all of 16.

Cat And Mouse, their sixth album, does not mess much with the formula of dance tracks mixed with love ballads.

The good thing is that the icky jail-bait factor is now far behind them when one listens to something like the title track, an invitation to "play some cat and mouse".

But do not think that they are ones to be toyed with. Instead, they purr: "I'm a wild kitty, the pick of the litter/I'm a wild kitty, keep your eyes on me."

If You Love Me Say It Out Loud keeps the groove going and these dance tracks throb with energy and a sense of purpose.

Too bad the balance tilts towards the ballads here. These are less successful in part because the duo are not strong enough singers.

The light-hearted album closer How Do I Make Clear My Feelings Now suggests a different direction for the duo to try.

All they have to do is dial down the cutesy enunciation.

Boon Chan



    25th Anniversary Edition

    Decca 478 8601 (CD & DVD)

    5/5 STARS

Twenty-five years after the fact, Decca has seen it fit to further milk the cash cow that was the first Three Tenors Concert. That was held on July 7, 1990, at the Caracalla Baths in Rome, in conjunction with the Fifa World Cup. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, with sequels in Los Angeles (1994) and Paris (1998) that failed to match the original in terms of sense of occasion and pure novelty.

Just to give one the idea of its impact in 1990: Opera became instantly accessible, while Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Nessun Dorma became household names overnight. A downside was it gave birth to that bastard child, the pseudo- art that is known as "pop opera".

After all, who could resist the appeal of arias such as Puccini's Recondita Armonia or E Lucevan Le Stelle (both from Tosca), or popular songs such as O Sole Mio, Torna A Surriento or Granada?

Then there are those cheesy medleys orchestrated by Lalo Schifrin where the tenors engage in some one-upmanship, all in good fun.

This Silver Anniversary Edition comprises the original best-selling CD and DVD of the entire concert with the Orchestras of Maggio Musicale of Florence and Teatro dell'Opera of Rome conducted by Zubin Mehta and a behind-the- scenes documentary, The Impossible Dream. Here is a timely reminder about the powerful draw of musical spectaculars.

Chang Tou Liang




    Phoenix Chorale/ Charles Bruffy

    Chandos 5100

    5/5 STARS

It's official: The future of choral music points strongly to a return to polyphonic tonality. Atonal choral music has become passe and unlikely to appear regularly in the programmes of the world's choirs, which are mostly amateur groups who love a good sing.

The Norwegian Ola Gjeilo (born 1978) belongs to the generation of choral composers (think also Eric Whitacre and Gabriel Jackson) who embrace tonality in all its glory and are unabashed about flaunting it.

Elements to be found in popular, film and gospel music appear in his compositions. These bear English titles, but are based on Latin liturgical texts and have strong roots to early church music.

Listen to the opening bars of The Ground (Pleni Sunt Caeli) and one is reminded of an Abba song and a climax of a feel-good movie later on. Gjeilo makes cameos as pianist, as do the Harrington String Quartet in the kinetically charged Dark Night Of The Soul, the longest work at 13 minutes.

The tenor saxophone of Ted Belledin lends an air of insouciance in Evening Prayer, which is pure easy listening. For his most representative works, listen to Northern Lights, Ubi Caritas and Unicornis Captivatur.

There are five premiere recordings and the Arizona-based professional choir is beautifully recorded.

A spiritually charged and highly enjoyable listen awaits.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe