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Dances of our Time
Steven STUCKY (b.1949)

Dream Waltzes (1986) [14’13]
Chen YI (b.1953)

Duo Ye (1985) [7’38]
Arturo MARQUEZ (b.1950)

Danzon No.2 (1993) [9’31]
Bruce MacCROMBIE (b.1943)

Chelsea Tango (1991) [11’05]
Wojciech KILAR (b.1932)

Krzesany (1974) [14’49]
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
Recorded at Victoria Concert Hall, Singapore, January 2002
BIS CD 1192 [58’49]


This is an enjoyable disc that seems to set out fairly and squarely to entertain rather than provoke. All the music is safely tonal, with the spirit of the dance being the unifying factor. Of course, this does mean that a lot of what is on offer invites comparison with great names of the past, and there is no doubt that the ghosts of Stravinsky, Bartók and Ravel (among others) linger over many passages.

But there is much to savour. My own favourite is the Kilar symphonic poem Krzesany, seemingly inspired by mountain scenery and taking a while before anything dance-related makes itself known. Indeed, the great cries of anguish from the strings at 4’15 had me thinking more about his compatriot Penderecki than anyone, though the presto furioso at 7’08 has a raw, barbarous quality that could be one of Bartók’s peasant orgies. The equally folksy ‘knees-up’ coda leads to a riotous ending that brings a smile to the face. This is not the first recording – there is an impressive all-Kilar disc on Naxos that includes this work, but this Singapore performance has a great sense of character and fun.

Stucky’s Dream Waltzes emerges as a sort of La Valse for our own times (there is a near quote at 11’02) complete with the menacing undercurrent beneath the surface gloss. It is very skilfully orchestrated, though doesn’t quite maintain interest over its 14-minute span as much as one would like.

Chen Yi’s Duo Ye has many echoes of Stravinsky, particularly Song of the Nightingale, and I admired it most when I felt her own voice was emerging, as in the limpid, exotic textures that appear around 5’45. Marquez’s Danzon No.2 (part of a set of four) is engagingly direct in its Latin-American rhythms, toe-tappingly infectious and justly popular in the concert halls of America. MacCrombie’s Chelsea Tango follows on nicely, a sort of hommage to Latin-Americana but with a slightly grittier, urban edge. Again, skilful orchestration clothes the witty but thin material, giving the piece a breezily sensuous air.

None of the works are earth-shatteringly original, but all are performed with vigour and character by the Singapore Symphony, and given the usual excellent BIS sound. It makes a modern counterpart to the ‘orchestral lollipops’, or ‘concert-hall encores’ discs we all used to love, and is equally enjoyable on those terms.

Tony Haywood

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