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CD Review

CD REVIEW - Strings Magazine

Review of Bion Tsang's latest CD

Strings Magazine San Rafael, CA September 1, 2010

On Record

“I prefer recording in a live situation rather than in a studio,” cellist Bion Tsang says. “Music is a communicative art, and I thrive on that communication.”

What makes this recorded performance special is the freedom and spontaneity that only the interaction with a responsive audience can generate. The players, professors at the University of Texas at Austin, are longtime collaborators—their ensemble is so close they can let themselves be carried away by sheer enthusiasm.

Brahms has been said to act as a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras, and these cello sonatas, Opp. 38 and 99, with their wide emotional range contained within a rigorous structural framework, are a good illustration. The first, written between 1862 and 1865, has the dark, melancholy introspection of autumnal maturity; the second, written 20 years later, has a bright, high-spirited, youthful exuberance.

The players make the most of all these attributes. Tsang adapts the color and intensity of his tone to the music’s mood and expression. The inwardness of the first sonata’s opening is particularly affecting, while that of the second fairly bursts with joyous impetuosity. Nel’s playing is distinguished by its textural clarity, which lets every line stand out. Tsang’s transcription of the Brahms-Joachim Hungarian Dances shows off the cello—and the cellist—but one misses the brilliant violin sound. His playing is splendid, though so free that tempo and rhythm are almost lost; but his enjoyment is infectious. His transcription of the Adagio from the third violin sonata makes a beautiful encore.

By Edith Eisler

Read the full review... Also available in hard print in Issue 186 (October 2010)

CD REVIEW - Fanfare Magazine

Review of Bion Tsang's latest CD

Fanfare Magazine Tenafly, NJ August 3, 2010

Classical Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve kvetched about having to review too many new releases of Brahms’s cello sonatas. I love them dearly, but enough was enough. Now, after a welcome respite, here comes Michigan-born cellist Bion Tsang to “make the pie higher,” to borrow a phrase from an ex-POTUS’s primer of quotable quotes.

I had kind words for Tsang’s Beethoven sonatas in Fanfare 30:1, commenting on his solid technique, full-throated vibrant tone, and poised performances that spoke to long, careful, and loving preparation. But nothing in his Beethoven could have prepared me for his Brahms.

My all-around favorite recording of the Brahms sonatas, and the one by which I’ve measured all comers, has been the one with Nancy Green and Frederick Moyer on the JRI label. That must now change thanks to Tsang, darn him anyway.

There are two more contributors to the glory of these performances that must be acknowledged, and they are the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall and the uncredited recording team. I don’t think I’ve ever heard—no, I know I haven’t—a cello and piano duo sound this way on record. Both instruments soared from my speakers with such headroom and bloom that I could literally feel the ambient acoustic of the hall surrounding me, and this is not even a multichannel surround-sound CD. Truly amazing.

Much as it grieves me to say it, Nancy and Frederick, move over; Bion and Anton are now my top recommendation for the Brahms cello sonatas.

By Jerry Dubins

Read the full review... Also available in hard print in Issue 33:6 (July/August 2010)

CD REVIEW - American Record Guide

Review of Bion Tsang's latest CD

American Record Guide Cincinnati, OH July/August 2010

Guide to Records

This is a concert at Jordan Hall at Boston's New England Conservatory. It is slightly more distantly miked than in a studio. That is not a criticism: it gives us somewhat more dynamic range, making it more exciting. One hears the occasional cough and applause from the audience and some heavy breathing on the part of the cellist, but that's part of the fun.

Tsang's arrangements for cello of Joachim's arrangements for violin of the Hungarian Dances are effective and played with virtuosity. Here Tsang comes into his own, showing unerring intonation in numerous double-stops. The slow movement of Violin Sonata 3 is also impressive and well transcribed as well.

By David Moore

Review available in hard print in Volume 73, Number 4 (July/August 2010)

CD REVIEW - The Gathering Note

Review of Bion Tsang's latest CD

The Gathering Note Seattle, WA April 10, 2010

Recording round up

Bion Tsang and Anton Nel, two of the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s regular festival musicians, are out with a recording of Johannes Brahms’ two cello sonatas (Artek, AR-0051-2). The performances are idiomatic and warm. The recording, taken from live performances in Jorban Hall at the New England Conservatory, is a touch distant, especially Nel’s piano. The highlight of Nel and Tsang’s release aren’t the two cello sonatas, but Tsang’s arrangement of four Hungarian Dances for cello and piano. Tsang worked from Joseph Joachim’s arrangement of dances one, two, four, and five for violin and piano for his own arrangement for cello and piano. Played on cello, the dances sound earthy, robust and are a welcome new look at this familiar repertory.

By Zach Cartensen.


CD REVIEW - Times News

Review of Bion Tsang's latest CD

Times News Lehighton, PA March 27, 2010

Absorbing the Music

The first time I listened to the CD was in my car on the way to work, during a recent snowstorm. This is a drive that usually has me arriving at the office white-knuckled, with my heart pounding. Although my ride took about twice as long as usual I pulled into the parking lot feeling surprisingly calm and refreshed, and almost wishing my ride would have taken about a half-hour longer!

For as much as I enjoyed listening to this CD while driving, as my friend Tom Dressler, another talented musician, taught me years ago, the best way to listen to music is to just listen. Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, relax and just let the music wash over you. While I rarely have the time or the inclination to settle in and listen, this CD has made me want to do just that to not just listen to the music, but actually absorb it so that I may appreciate it fully.

While listening to the sonatas I again get goose bumps; and the lively Hungarian Dances make me smile. At the end of the Sonata in E minor, Op. 38, as I hear the audience rise to its feet with wild applause, I want to join them, I am so enraptured.

There are times when great works of visual art have brought me to tears. I easily admit the performances captured on this CD have the same effect.

By Karen Cimms.