Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Duo Shu, Yi-Wen Zhang, Nanyi Qiang, Play Faure, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Gao and Bartok


Great music is a matter of  the experiencing, of course. So in the course of one's musical life one ideally remains open to whatever music one comes across. So when a CD by Duo Shu (BGR581) arrived in the mail the other day, I was not entirely sure what to expect, since I did not know of them. But I was ready to give it my full attention. They are excellent, as it turns out.

It is made up of Yi-Wen Zhang on cello and Nanyi Qiang at the piano.

The program is a very full one, quite well suited to show the duo's expressive strengths and ways that draw one into the music and keep creating a lovely sense of movement and growth throughout. Maestros Zhang and Qiang founded their Duo in Ohio in 2019 but their first musical interactions date from 2002. Both hail originally from the Chengdu region of Western China. The end result is that both thrive together in how they share both a Chinese childhood locality and the Western Classical heritage. Their considerable musical interpretive skills and disposition add to that commonality to create a most magical musical presence on this CD.

The program has an expressive penchant party by thriving in a minor mode Romantic and Post-Romantic, from Schumann to Faure and on to Eastern Europe (Rachmaninoff, Dvorak and Bartok) and happily further on to Chinese living master composer Weijie Gao and his moving "Longing for Shu."

The substantial yet tempered warmth of Yi-Wen Zhang's cello is a thing to relish. She gives every phrase a feelingful weight and luscious tone, with beautifully true intonation and a dramatic thrust that feels just right for this repertoire and our current-day appreciation of clarity as well as push. Pianist Nanyi Qiang has a remarkably uncluttered delivery that pares all down to its essence and provides a thoughtful, singing, ringing blanket of sound to enfold the cello effusions in a well deserved royal carpeting true to how these musical possibilities feel today.

Something a little unexpected is the Luigi Silva cello-piano arrangement of six Bartok "Romanian Folk Dances," which sound quite ravishing in this format as the Duo Shu plays through them doubtless with the same utter delight one feels in hearing them. The Weijie Gao work is also a special highlight with its mysterious contemporaneity and beautifully expressive gestural depth.

It is one of those albums that not only wears well with age, listens that is, it makes connective sense and works together for a fine experience first-to-last. This one can give your season, any season really, a bright floating bubble to adorn the day. Warmly recommended.

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