This CD allows Chinese musician and composer Gao Hong to present herself in an amazing array of musical settings. It opens with "Morning" for pipa, sitar and tabla, featuring Shubhendra Rao and Ty Burhoe. It seems incredible these instruments, which have probably never been combined before, can sound so natural together. The range of the pipa and sitar complement each other superbly, and the players create a dazzling, energetic interplay. "Moved by the Spirit" is a duet for pipa and flute, with renowned jazz musician James Newton. It begins in a quiet mood, becoming playful and adventurous but never completely moving away from a contemplative feeling. "Flying Dragon" displays Hong's talent in a solo work whose title is taken from her life. The pipa, in the hands of such a master performer, can change its sound from delicate and lute-like, to densely harmonic, to percussive. She communicates a wide range of emotions and ideas; telling us of hopes, fears and events without speaking a word. "Cutting Grain", for shakuhachi and pipa, is filled with haunting, plaintive notes from Yoshio Kurahashi. The piece is based on a traditional folk song and the pipa sometimes references the sound of the shamisen (the pipa's closest counterpart in Japan). All of the musicians unite for "Silk Road". The piece begins slowly, as if each instrument is making the acquaintance of the others. After some searching, a harmonic and rhythmic center is established. The musicians take delight in adding their distinctive voices and bring the recording to a bright and lively conclusion. This recording is an outstanding example of the fruit that can be born from the intermingling of different cultures by talented artists. I highly recommend it.
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