Short spins: Asian pop


Freya Lim

Rock Records



Yoga Lin

HIM International Music


It seems like Malaysian singer Freya Lim is trying to hold on to time.

She is still attempting to recapture the glory of her 2010 comeback album, Holding Back The Tears, which featured tracks for Taiwanese television series The Fierce Wife.

Similarly, the title track here is the ending theme song from another drama, Fabulous 30, while Ming Ming Ai Ni (Hidden Love) is from In A Good Way.

But while Tears was a beautifully cohesive record, Time is only intermittently interesting.

Apart from the two drama theme song ballads, the other track that leaves an impression is Yan Yu (Romance). The mood here is a little sexy and a little regretful: "Loving is like a charged encounter, it grows old with memory/If you discover soundless lightning, it must be someone sighing."

Unfortunately, too many tracks fall into a bland, mid-tempo morass. Rather than trying to attract attention with oversized record-sleeve packaging, why couldn't the album do it with solid material?

Time to try something new.

That is what Taiwanese singer Yoga Lin does on his EP, for which he composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the two tracks. Speaking In Tongues is also the name of his recently concluded world tour before he heads off for his compulsory military duty later this year.

The collaboration with indie band Elephant Gym is a light rock number which finds Lin contemplating departure: "I'm so close to an exit, no reason/ Don't let me stay, don't secretly hold on to me anymore."

The other song, Elephant Slide, is a sweet tribute to his mother. It seemed like an odd choice to rope in Bobby Chen Sheng with his gruff voice, but it is unexpected enough to just about work.

An intriguing offering to mull over while Lin marches off stage - at least, for a while.



Nelson Freire, Piano

Decca 478 3533


This is a sparkling anthology of piano music from the homeland of celebrated Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire.

The country's most famous composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) accounts for 16 of the 30 tracks, all short pieces with strong melodic threads and infectious rhythmic interest.

In Alma Brasileira (Soul Of Brazil), Caboclo's Legend, Saudades Das Selvas Brasileiras (Longing For The Brazilian Jungle) No. 2 and Valsa Da Dor (Waltz Of Grief), the listener is introduced to the spirit of "saudade", understood by the Brazilians as profound nostalgia and yearning.

In Carnaval Das Criancas (Children's Carnival) and movements from Cirandas, Prole Do Bebe (Doll's Family) and Guia Pratico (Practical Guide), the simplicity of childhood songs is the main focus.

The other composers are less well known, but Camargo Guarnieri's Danca Negra, Alexandre Levy's Tango Brasileiro, Joaquim Netto's Minha Terra (My Country) and Francisco Mignone's Congada occupy the same ethno-musical niche as Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona's famous dances.

Freire lavishes much love and missionary zeal in these numbers and there is rarely a moment in the 74 minutes that sounds repetitive or outlives its welcome.

This album is very enjoyable and ardently recommended.

Nelson Freire will perform at the 21st Singapore International Piano Festival on June 28 at 7.30pm at the School of the Arts Concert Hall. Tickets priced at $40, $58 and $80 are available from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to 21st-century classics



Hilary Hahn, Violin

Cory Smythe, Piano

Deutsche Grammophon 479 1725 (2 CDs)


A few years back, the American violinist Hilary Hahn commissioned 26 composers worldwide to write an encore piece for violin and piano, of about five minutes.

A further work was selected from a field of more than 400 "blind" entries. The results are fascinating but somewhat predictable.

Presumably every composer wishes to have his or her piece performed more than once, hence all chose the tonal and aurally accessible path.

From Briton Mark-Anthony Turnage's Hilary's Hoedown (two minutes) to Azeri Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's Impulse (six minutes), the pieces fall roughly into three broad categories: scherzo-like and virtuosic, still and ruminative, and ethnically-influenced in the case of Asian composers.

Hahn's technical armamentarium seems limitless as she negotiates a multitude of styles, flavours and moods.

For a sample of diversity, try Avner Dorman's toccata-like and minimalistic Memory Games, the raga-simulations of Kala Ramnath's Aalap And Tarana, Michiru Oshima's sentimental Memories, David Del Tredici's meditative and hymn-like Farewell, or bluegrass fiddling in Ford's Farm by Mason Bates.

Nowhere does she and her piano- partner sound less than committed.

Enough of Bach, Paganini or Ysaye to close a concert. Thanks to Hahn, these new encores will be winningly received.

This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
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