Silk & Bamboo Ensemble: Cheng Yu (pipa); Chen Dacan (erhu, gaohu); Liu Xiaohui (guanzi, sheng, dizi); Li Ming (dizi); Xiao Ran.
The Silk & Bamboo Ensemble, something of an all-star subset of the U.K. Chinese Music Ensemble, here performs a simple set of silk and bamboo music. This is fairly basic fare for Southern Chinese music, and though the small ensemble does an admirable job technically, there isn't really anything surprising to be had in the album. That said, silk and bamboo music has held its place as the best-known form of Chinese music for a reason -- the compositions are highly traditional, and though fairly unsurprising at this point, the genre maintains a lot of cultural energy in a place where culture is getting updated on a daily basis. The ensemble here presents a somewhat subdued rendition of the traditional form, the subdued part coming mostly from the small size of the group (only five members, as opposed to the parade-size endeavors that usually make up a silk and bamboo outing). The performances are good, if a bit heavy on the mouth organ for this format; a little more bamboo than silk perhaps. Nonetheless, a nice introduction for the curious newcomer to Chinese music. As an added bonus, there's a treasure hidden midway through the disc, with an excellent piece for solo qin courtesy of Cheng Yu that shows off the purity of the ancient instrument and gives a little more of an insight beyond the stereotype. ~ Adam Greenberg