Asian classics: Essence of SCO

Essence of SCO offers 21/2 hours of pure listening pleasure to some of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's best plays.

Essence of SCO

Singapore Chinese Orchestra/

Yeh Tsung


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

SINGAPORE - This double-disc set is a compilation of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra's recordings, selected from its albums over the years, and it reveals the ensemble to be a rather versatile outfit.

Under the baton of maestro Yeh Tsung (right), the orchestra's principal musicians are found at their expressive best in concertante works.

Concertmaster Li Baoshun on the gaohu weaves a tale of fantasy in Liu Xi Jin's Legend Of The Merlion, while erhu exponent Zhao Jianhua shines in the betterknown Great Wall Capriccio by Liu Wen Jin. Both huqin concertos are very listenable alternatives to the over-performed Butterfly Lovers and Yellow River Concertos.

Espousing the idea of Nanyang music is Law Wai Lun's Prince Sang Nila Utama And Singa, based on the Temasek legend of how Singapore got its name, with its distinctly Indonesian-sounding themes. The Celestial Web, also by the current orchestra composer-in- residence, has more universal aspirations, with texts by local artist Tan Swie Hian.

Chinese composer Tan Dun's Fire Ritual, using music for the movie Nanjing 1937, exploits his idea of "orchestral theatre", with instruments and voices simulating characters within a staged play.

As encores, American jazz-classical trio Chris Brubeck Triple Play jams with the orchestra to Americanjazz compositions, Paul Desmond's Take Five and Dave Brubeck's Koto Song. Recorded live, in concert, they get plenty of applause. All in all, this is 21/2 hours of enthralling listening.