Chinary Ung: Seven Mirrors

Chinary Ung: Seven Mirrors


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Chinary Ung: Seven Mirrors

The music of Chinary Ung should strike no fear into the heart of music lovers -- certainly anyone who can get a grip on early twentieth century music styles can grasp what is happening on this New World disc Seven Mirrors. Perhaps not all will like what they hear, but more will "get it" than conventional wisdom might dictate. "Spiral VI" is a fleet, rhythmically flexible, and bluesy-sounding chamber piece. It is well performed by the group Quake, although some of Sean Osborn's playing in the lower register of the clarinet is dull sounding at times. Pianist Gloria Cheng's reading of "Seven Mirrors" is not only better, it is fantastic; a truly sympathetic and visionary interpretation of a stunning collection of etudes that incorporates ideas reminiscent of Debussy, Scriabin, and Ung's teacher George Crumb. But "Seven Mirrors"' plotting, sense of mystery, and elements of exoticism are unique attributes, and Cheng admirably brings out the best in Ung's music. "Grand-Alap" has been recorded before, and it is the most explicitly Asian-sounding work on the disc. The performance, including chattering, humming, and speaking by cellist Walter Gray and percussionist Rob Tucker, can be engaging, although to some it will sound like the soundtrack to a 1960s Samurai movie. Upon listening to this, one cannot help but feel that it is in his orchestral and piano music that Ung has really found his milieu. "Grand Spiral (Desert Flowers Bloom)" is the second of Ung's orchestral works to be recorded; Dennis Russell Davies recorded Ung's "Inner Voices" with the American Composers Orchestra for Argo several years ago. The "desert flowers" tag seems apropos, as the music is reminiscent of some of Edgard Varèse's large orchestral scores, although there are added elements of Gershwin-esque flourishes and Shanghai movie music thrown in for good measure. "Grand Spiral (Desert Flowers Bloom)" is a big-boned, multi-leveled orchestral experience that combines an equal mixture of sweet and sour elements. It is a grand pleasure to listen to, and the La Jolla Symphony under Harvey Sollberger deserves the highest praise for this recording. It is a complex and difficult score, and the La Jolla Symphony sounds like anything but a small-town symphony in performing it.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/22/2005
Label: New World Records
UPC: 0093228061922
catalogNumber: 80619


  1. Spiral VI, for violin, clarinet, cello & piano
  2. Seven Mirrors, for piano
  3. Grand Alap (A Window in the Sky), for voices, cello & percussion
  4. Grand Spiral, for symphonic band ("Desert Flowers Bloom")

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