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Classical Music Review

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Whispering Fragrance
The Chamber Works of Stephen Yip


Composer: Stephen Yip
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 10 August 2018

Whispering Fragrance is Stephen Yip's first solo album with Navona Records. The album is an original creation that is unapologetically post-modern, yet deeply rooted in Chinese traditionalism...

Stephen Yip's Whispering Fragrance is a slow burner. It's not an easy album to instantly warm to, but give it time and you'll soon be soaking up the finer points.

We open with 'Ding', scored for double bass and the Chinese zither guzheng. This pieces reflects the nine ancient rulers of the Zhou kingdom in just as many short musical sections.

'Whispering Fragrance', an intuitive, ethereal composition for solo violin, aims to capture the transcendent sensual experiences of interacting with nature – sight, smell, hearing – with the instrument's natural harmonics.

'In 7th Heaven', a saxophone, double bass and piano seek to create a state of debonair tranquility. Some of the different meanings of the Chinese word "Ran" are set to sound in the eponymous piece written for solo guzheng, running the gamut from collected composure to fiery agitation. 'Tranquility in Consonance', set for flute, saxophone, bassoon and piano, never loses its distinctly Eastern feel, which is partially due to applying playing techniques of Chinese instruments to the Western set-up, partially due to its uninhibited celebration of environmental and natural sounds.

Finally, 'Peace of Mind' is an atmospheric development of heterogeneous textures, the conclusion of which mirrors the title.

If you're looking to expand your musical horizons - to take in a more World Music feel - then Whispering Fragrance will offer you a flavour of Chinese tradition, crossed with Western influences. The end result is richly rewarding.

Track listing:

01 - DING 鼎 (2015) (10:09)
Henry Chen (double bass); Yu-Chen Wang (guzheng)

02 - WHISPERING FRAGRANCE 花飛鳥語 (2017) (9:06)
Yu-Fang (Chen violin)

03 - IN SEVENTH HEAVEN 七重天 (2014) (10:53)
Daniel Gelok (saxophone); Rudy Michael Albach (double bass); Andrew Schneider (piano)

04 - RAN 弦 (2014) (14:25)
Jiuan-Reng Yeh (guzheng)

05 - TRANQUILITY IN CONSONANCE 清. 和 (2016) (9:23)
Izumi Miyahara (flute); Masahito Sugihara (saxophone); Ben Roidl-Ward (bassoon); Andrew Schneider (piano)

06  - PEACE OF MIND 心安 (2014) (13:00)
Thelema Trio; Rik De Geyter (clarinet); Peter Verdonck (saxophone); Ward De Vleeschhouwer (piano)


Darren Rea

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