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Review: Cheng-Ying Chuang - Wandering Voices
Album Cover - Wandering Voices
Wandering Voices
 Artist: Cheng-Ying Chuang
 Album: Wandering Voices
 Date of Release: 2009
 Label: Pvt.
 Cat. No.:  
 Country of Release: UK
 Genre/s: 1. Classical
2. World | International

 Sub-Genre/s: 1. Western Classical, Early Music, Baroque, Chinese Classical, Chinese Early Music, Contemporary
2. Chinese
 Type: Studio/Live
   Time: 68:52
   Date of Review: 2012/03/07
   Web Site:
   Sample Track

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Wandering Voices

Cheng-Ying Chuang's Wandering Voices was released in 2009. It is as timeless a work as one could find.

If you thought East - West musical encounters in the classical realm had been done to death and involved only Indian classical music, or were as dry as dust, think again. Cheng-Ying Chuang takes us on a musical journey through time and space with Wandering Voices that is as breath-taking as it is brilliant. The time spans a good fourteen hundred years, from approximately the sixth century C.E. to contemporary times, the space China and Europe.

From ancient Chinese melodies going back to the sixth century C.E. to European Renaissance, Baroque and classical songs to Chinese classical and folk songs and tunes and Chinese contemporary compositions, Wandering Voices has it all. Not only that, Cheng-Ying Chuang introduces a certain degree of fusion, for example replacing the lute in European Renaissance songs with Chinese lutes such as the zhongruan, introducing other Chinese instruments to European song arrangements, and vice versa, Western keyboards to Chinese songs and melodies. The zhongruan - the mid-sized member of the ruan family, in the West also mistakenly known as the Chinese moon guitar - is eminently suitable to take over lute parts, and it does not sound nearly as exotic or strange as you might think, with both its range and timbre not all that dissimilar from those of the guitar.

The music is just achingly, exquisitely beautiful, Chinese and European alike. I must confess to never having been fond of Schubert's Heidenröslein, but Chuang's exquisite arrangement and countertenor, liuqin and zhongruan performance have me converted!

Chuang is an award-winning highly accomplished and acclaimed musician, and incidentally no stranger to cross-cultural musical collaborations. (Most recently, he took and is continuing to take part in World Lute Encounter with sitarist and vocalist Mehboob Nadeem.) His rich, often vibrato-laden countertenor, reaching well into alto, is outstanding and utterly beguiling. In addition, Chuang is also a maestro of the aforementioned zhongruan, as well as of the liuqin, although it is actually a member of the lute family, a smaller version of the pi pa. Both of these instruments are simply exquisite - as indeed are all Chinese instruments.

For Wandering Voices, Chuang has teamed up with some outstanding musicians - Chiao-Han Liao on harpsichord, organ and piano, Dai-Chi Chiu on piano, Yin-Fan Li on flute, and Cheng-Hsuan Kao on erhu. The latter is a two-stringed Chinese spiked fiddle, a member of the large huqin family, which has the bow hair passing between the strings. Like the lute family, this is likely to be of Middle Eastern/Persian origin in the distant past.

The juxtaposition of on the one hand European Renaissance, Baroque and classical music, and on the other Chinese ancient, classical and contemporary music works beautifully well. It is, indeed, nothing short of sheer magic. Likewise, the substitution of Chinese instruments for European ones works supremely well and is handled thoughtfully. What binds it all together is Chuang's exquisite countertenor.

Whether you come from a world music or classical perspective, Wandering Voices will not only fascinate but absolutely captivate. As world music, it certainly is very different, firmly rooted in classical traditions as this album is, from the more usual fare. But if you are adventurous enough yourself, this will be a most rewarding experience. The same applies to those coming from a more classical and Early Music sphere.

To speak of consistency in relation to this album would be completely superfluous. Furthermore, Wandering Voices is not merely compelling, it is utterly mesmerising, its spell so totally irresistible you will want to listen to this album again as soon as it has finished playing. The charm and beauty of this album are as immense as its brilliance. Music to make your spine tingle.

Cheng-Ying Chuang's Wandering Voices is for all intents and purposes a must have for any lover of classical as well as world music. I would not be parted from it for all the tea in China.

© 2012 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Track List:

 1. Schubert (original lied): Heidenröslein Suite (arr. C.-Y. Chuang) - 5:31
 2. Wang Huiran: Marked Melodies of Liuqin Opera - 3:44
 3. Wu Junsheng: The Night Of The Torch Festival - 5:56
 4. Dowland: Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite - 3:35
 5. Dowland: Flow, My Tears - 4:35
 6. Liu Xijin: Fishing Song (from Sketches of Life in North China Ethnic Area) - 5:40
 7. Xu Changiun: Sword Dance - 6:25
 8. Chen Qiulin: The White Peony (arr. C.-Y. Chuang) - 3:34
 9. Grandi: Cantabo Domino - 4:03
10. Xinjiang Folksong: Awariguli - 3:09
11. Ancient Chinese Tune: Moon On High - 12:52
12. Handel: Presti Omai L'Egizia Terra (from Giulio Cesare In Egitto) - 2:17
13. Zhang Jing-An & Ouyang Qianshu: Hong Lake Water Ripples - 3:59
14. Northeast Chinese Folksong (arr. Guo Song): Wusuli Boating Song 3:32

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Cheng-Ying Chuang - zhongruan, liuqin (Chinese lutes) & countertenor

Chiao-Han Liao - harpsichord (4, 5, 12), organ (8), piano (13, 14)
Dai-Chi Chiu - piano (1, 6, 8)
Yin-Fan Li - flute (1, 6, 8)
Cheng-Hsuan Kao - erhu (1, 6, 8)


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