Madeleine Shapiro, cello
Though composer Ge Gan-ru, considered by many to be China’s first avant-garde composer, crossed the Pacific before the Tan Dun-Bright Sheng-Chen Yi cavalcade, Madeleine Shapiro’s aggressive performance of his Yi Feng for amplified solo cello is the first recording of his music ever made publicly available. The piece is not only an intellectual, but physical workout for the soloist. Shapiro must employ unusual styles of bowing, plucking, and pounding on the body of her instrument to simulate the character of an Eastern timbral landscape. (A new recording devoted exclusively to Ge’s orchestral work has also just been released on BIS).
Ed. Note: I have to personally apologize for the misinformation above. I’ve been a huge fan of Ge Gan-ru’s music for years and was so excited to see his name on a commercially-released CD when I read Molly’s commentary. Her original comment did not include a reference to this recording being a first. That was my over-zealous interjection.
Mr. Ge has rightly pointed out to me that not only is this not the first commercially-released recording of his music, it is also not the first commercially-released recording of the composition Yi Feng, which previously appeared in a performance by Frank Su Huang on the CRI CD, eXchange China. Strange, I even own a copy of this CD and have listened to it several times. (Perhaps this adds further fodder to folks who say I’ve got too many recordings!) Unfortunately, eXchange China, which also features otherwise unavilable works by eight other Chinese-American composers, is now out of print although it seems that several copies can still be snatched up for a pittance on Amazon. The lack of availability of the CRI back catalog has definitely left major chasms in the discography of contemporary American music. Luckily, Madeleine Shapiro’s excellent recording makes this important work available once again. At any rate, what remains true is that all too little of Ge Gan-ru’s music is commercially available on recordings and that recognition for this important pioneer in the synthesis of Chinese and Euro-American musical traditions is long overdue.