A review of Romance de Amor, a recent CD release by Xui Fei Yang, Chinese guitar virtuoso
Review by J. André Foisy
Romance de Amor demonstrates Xue Fei Yang's ability to blend technical virtuosity with a depth of musicianship. On it, Yang conquers songs from many areas of the globe: Great Britain, China, Spain, as well as others. There is no doubt that Yang has mastered the guitar: she has won international contests and the recognition of world renowned guitarists and composers. However, can she create a cohesive album that will reflect her varied influences in a way that places the whole over any one composition?
Yang seems to be most strongly drawn to the Spanish guitar. She opens the CD with her version of Albeniz's Asturias. She plays this and other Spanish songs with a mellifluous picking technique which enables the melody to stand out over the droning high notes that she plays subtly under the melody. Yang plays Asturias faster than I have heard it in the past. The speed and fluidity of the beginning of this track creates a nice juxtaposition to the slow, languid ending. For the album, she picked many compositions that benefit from her ability to play at a blisteringly fast pace: she performs Sagreras' El Colibri in just over a minute. The clarity of each note in such songs does not give the listener the feeling that such songs are rushed; rather Yang uses her technical abilities effectively to extract and emphasize different feelings and emotions in each song.
Non-Spanish guitar songs are intersperced throughout the album. Yang performs a gentle version of the Beatles' Michelle early in the album. This song is performed too sweetly for my own personal taste. Her version transforms a moving pop love song into something that you might hear in the background at a supermarket: an ersatz version of the original, played with a different feeling than the Beatles intended the song to convey. Later in the CD Yang performs Sakura, a piece by the Japanese composer Yuquijiro Yocoh. This track utilizes a range of picking techniques, which demonstrates a large range of the guitar's qualities that are not often evoked in Spanish guitar music. Pieces like Sakura go along nicely with the album's overall theme of romance. The word "sakura" means "cherry blossom" in Japanese. In Yang's native China, the cherry blossom symbolizes feminine beauty and sexuality.
It is no surprise that Xue Fei Yang has drawn so much praise for her mesmerizing playing. Romance de Amor shows that Yang is able to create an album that not only showcases her own abilities, but truly benefits the songs on the album as a whole. On Romance de Amor, Yang presents compositions from all over the world, but she gives the album an overall feeling of cohesion. She plays each of these tracks beautifully, and in a way that will draw this listener back for years to come.