CD Review: Ying Quartet — Dim Sum

Ying Ying Quartet
Dim Sum
Telarc

****

by Al Kaufman

Ah, these Ying kids. Three brothers and a sister make up a classical quartet consisting of two violins, a viola, and a cello. But this is not the classical music your stodgy old grandmother listens to.

The CD is named Dim Sum because, like the food, these are some hot, delicious samplers. The quartet has chosen eight different contemporary Chinese American composers and has created some spicy interpretations of their works. They blend ancient Chinese tradition with modern Western influences to form their unique sound.

They open with Zhou Long's"Song of the Ch'in." A ch'in is an ancient zither-like instrument that was plucked only by Chinese scholars. They re-create that sound on their four instruments, boldly blending the ancient with the modern.

They perform the same magic on Chen Yi's "Shou," in which they use their strings to replicate the sound of a mountain folk singer.

Their music is full of exhilaration and passion. Bright Sheng's "Silent Temple IV" sounds like something that would be heard at the climax of a Hitchcock film.

They cover the avant-garde composer Ge Gan-ru in the world premier recording of his "Fu," and explore new musical territory with three pieces from Tan Dun, in which Dun combines western atonality with his memories from the Peking Opera.

The Yings will not offend classical purists. Their previous Grammy-nominated CD, Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Quartet Nos. 1-3,  will attest to their respect for the masters. But the current quartet-in-residence at the Eastman School of Music understands that classical music will only remain a vital, breathing entity if it continues to grow and evolve. As long as the Ying Quartet is still around classical music should continue to thrive.

The Ying Quartet plays The University of Georgia's Performing Arts Center on Saturday, January 10th, 8 pm. Free.

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