Lu­mi­nous Spi­rals

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - —James M. Keller

(Bridge) The five sub­stan­tial works on this disc from the Da Capo Cham­ber Play­ers pro­vide an ap­peal­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tive in­tro­duc­tion to the mu­sic of Chi­nary Ung, who vis­its town this sum­mer, when the Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val of­fers a new work by him. Born in Cam­bo­dia in 1942, Ung em­i­grated to the United States when he was 22 and de­vel­oped an in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic style that en­com­passes Western and var­i­ous East-Asian tra­di­tions. This sur­vey be­gins with Child Song, a work for flute, vi­o­lin, cello, and pi­ano from 1985. That year he re­sumed com­pos­ing af­ter a decade’s hia­tus, dur­ing which he helped fam­ily mem­bers flee Cam­bo­dia and worked to pre­serve Cam­bo­dian mu­si­cal tra­di­tions from as­saults by the Kh­mer Rouge. Of­ten in­spired by ge­o­met­ri­cal shapes, Ung is fa­mous for his se­ries of com­po­si­tions called spi­rals, of which two are rep­re­sented on this CD. Dif­fer­ent trio and quar­tet group­ings are heard in Lu­mi­nous Spi­rals (1997) and Spi­ral VI (1992), where phrases de­rived from sim­i­lar ma­te­rial over­lap and in­ter­lace freely, waft­ing above a shared tonal an­chor. Ung’s mu­sic is deeply med­i­ta­tive, but its ru­mi­na­tions are ac­tive, danc­ing buoy­antly along some el­e­vated plane. I pre­fer his in­stru­men­tal works to his vo­cal pieces, al­though in Or­a­cle (2004), in­spired by Ti­betan spir­i­tu­al­ism, the en­sem­ble’s ex­pert play­ers prove adept in sing­ing, shout­ing, and adding all sorts of ex­tra-in­stru­men­tal sounds.

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