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Sarah Plum, overseen by producer and engineer (and, although not on this album, pianist) Sergei Kvitko, plays modern music for violin and electronics follows it, divides the album in half. There is a difference in tone and texture between the two halves of the programme, with the first set of songs often edgier, with a severity that one finds at times in Britten. The songs in the later stages of the album are usually less angular, more rounded in melodic contour and expressive profile – a touch more sentimental to my ear, too.

The performances are all well informed and nicely executed. Donald Berman’s accompaniments for Krista River and Thomas Meglioranza are models of support. Blair McMillen’s rendition of the piano suite Five is nicely done, though it must be conceded that the central ‘Demon Cloud’ and the song ‘Storm’ reveal the limitations of McClelland’s expressive vision. Best of all are the three choral items, not least the final setting of Catullus, ‘These Last Gifts’. Guy Rickards

‘Mosaic’ Albéniz Tango, Op 165 No 2 (transcr Rummel) Casals El cant dels ocells Debussy Beau soir (transcr Heifetz). Première Rapsodie Falla Siete Canciones populares espoñolas (transcr Colón) Fauré Après un rêve, Op 7 No 1 (transcr Casals). Berceuse, Op 16 (transcr Butorac). Élégie, Op 24. Papillon, Op 77 Nishimura Fantasia on Song of the Birds Ravel Pavane pour une infante défunte (transcr Borisovsky). Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra (transcr Ricci) Wenting Kang va Sergei Kvitko pf Blue Gri in (BGR609 • 70’)

Since winning First Prize in the 2012 Tokyo International Viola Competition,

Chinese player Wenting Kang has gotten around, playing in the Israel Philharmonic, recording Perle with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (1/20) and now playing and teaching (alongside her mentor Nobuko Imai) in Spain. Her current locale looms large in this recital – a ‘mosaic’ (as she calls it) of short, colourful pieces that create ‘a larger image’ and ‘ambiance’, and reflect her fascination with both French and Spanish composers.

Kang hooked me within the programme’s first minute with her performance of Debussy’s chanson Beau soir (in Heifetz’s violin arrangement, here transposed for viola). Part of the allure is her golden and glowing tone but the subtlety of her shading is just as transfixing. Listen to the slight, soft tremble in her sound as she reaches into her upper register, about 28 seconds in, like a catch in the voice. It sends shivers down my spine each time I hear it. Indeed, her technique is close to flawless. Note, for instance, the perfectly even trills at 4'28" in Debussy’s Première Rapsodie (originally for clarinet; Kang proves it equally effective on the viola).

Kang and pianist Sergei Kvitko (who’s also producer and engineer for this recording) do interesting things with even the most well-worn works. Their slow (but not stodgy) tread in Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte transforms the dance into a processional – and I love the way Kang pares her tone to a breathy sliver in the final phrases. Fauré’s Papillon flutters charmingly and his Berceuse sings as sweetly and silkily as one could wish.

I worried that Akira Nishimura’s Fantasia on Song of the Birds (the Catalan Christmas song) might be jarring in this context but while its harmonic and rhythmic language is modern, its underlying impetus is lyrical, so it fits in quite nicely. Not only that but it’s a marvellous foil for Casals’s lovely arrangement of the tune. And, in turn, the Casals turns out to be a delightful segue to Falla’s Siete Canciones populares españolas. This last set is brilliantly played: ‘Asturiana’ is dreamily evocative, the ‘Jota’ balances finesse and earthy joy, while the closing ‘Polo’ abounds with flamenco fervour.

Kvitko is a superbly sensitive partner and his pearlescent tone can be as enticing as Kang’s – listen, say, at 2'42" in Debussy’s Rapsodie. As engineer, he makes magic, too, for the recording is beautifully balanced and warmly atmospheric. A terrific programme in every way. Andrew Farach-Colton

‘Personal Noise’ Choi Flowering Dandelion Herriott after time: a resolution Kimura Sarahala Lyon Personal Noise with Accelerants Moe Obey Your Thirst Nichols Il Prete Rosso Takano Full Moon Sarah Plum, aYvonne Lam vns Blue Gri in (BGR619 • 65’)


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