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An-lun HUANG (b. 1949)
Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor Op. 30 (1981) [39:50]
Piano Trio No. 2 in B Major Op. 83 (2014) [33:23]
Bin Hang (violin), Alexander Suleiman (cello), Yobo Zhou (piano)
rec. 2017, Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster, Germany
MDG 903 2065-6 SACD [73:13]

I am a firm believer in education through experimentation, and that if you are not prepared to listen to the new and unusual, you will be stuck in the same old rut. This principle has for the most part furnished me with some interesting and exciting discoveries along with a few composers and discs that I have just not got on with; I am glad to say that on this occasion this is one of the former.

The Canadian based Chinese composer An-lun Huang is the son of Feilih Huang, a student of Hindemith at Yale, and his first music teacher, his lessons beginning when he was five. His education was interrupted when, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, he was forced to work in agriculture; he was, however, able to continue his education during this period on a less formal footing. He later became assistant conductor and Composer in Residence at the Central Opera House of China in Beijing in 1976; four years later, he moved to Toronto to complete his formal musical studies, later moving to Yale, where he received his Master’s degree in music.

An-lun Huang seeks in his music to establish a meeting ground between China and the West by mixing both Chinese and western harmonies and his music is widely accepted; in 1995 Lang Lang won the International Tchaikovsky Youth Piano Competition playing Huang’s Chinese Rhapsody No. 2. The D minor Piano Trio was written the year after he moved to Canada, and opens with some typical western piano writing; later, some very Chinese-sounding music is heard in the strings. He manages to marry these two conflicting harmonics together to produce a work which is both interesting and attractive. There are some heavy passages, which probably relates to the fact that this is in reality a student work, and as such reflects the teaching he was receiving, but this is mostly enjoyable and tonal.

By far the finer work on this disc is the B Major Piano Trio, written some thirty-three years later; this work shows greater maturity and a composer who has come to terms with the differing aspects of eastern and western music. It builds upon the harmonies of the great German tradition, which was known to the composer through his father, and successfully combines it with Chinese musical heritage, more so than in the D minor Trio. This is a much stronger and more integrated work, but one which still shows these dual influences: just listen to the final Largo – Allegro assai for instance, and both characteristics of the composer’s musical upbringing shine through this remarkable work.

This is a most welcome disc, part of Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm’s 2+2+2 multiplayer series, so it can be played on either a SACD player or a conventional stereo CD player. The sound is marvellous, as is the performance; whether the three are usual collaborators is not mentioned, but they seem to have an affinity with each other. The booklet notes, whilst unusually short for MDG, are informative and provide insight into the music.

Stuart Sillitoe

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