Formosa Quartet’s milestone album, From Hungary to Taiwan, was released by Bridge Records today. The album pairs three imaginative new works with Béla Bartók’s towering Fourth String Quartet, a nod to the group’s Taiwanese heritage and a celebration of “folk”, in every sense of the word.
The program juxtaposes two pairs: Hungarian folk music in two representations, and Taiwanese folk music in two representations. Formosa Quartet decided to commission composers Dana Wilson, Lei Liang, and Wei-Chieh Lin to create this fascinating view of cultural identity.
As liner notes annotator Ronald Robboy wrote, “This imaginative recording project offers treatments of folk music from Hungary and Taiwan that juxtapose the two in unexpected ways, illuminating different facets of their respective musical cultures and causing us to think more deeply about what can be meant by, not just the term ‘folk music,’ but by the music itself.”
The Hungarian set includes Bartók’s Fourth String Quartet, a piece which reflects the composer’s pioneering study and assimilation of Hungarian folk music. To pair with this piece, Formosa Quartet commissioned Hungarian Folk Songs by Dana Wilson, another representation of Hungarian folk music but in rawer form. As Wilson wrote in his score, “My task was not to create my own music inspired by folk tradition, as so many composers have done, but rather to try to capture key aspects of the traditional music itself.”
The Taiwanese set brings together two meanings of “folk,” with its salute to both indigenous Taiwanese cultures and the rich tradition of Taiwanese popular folk songs. Lei Liang’s Song Recollections shines light on the evocative and lesser-known music of the Taiwanese indigenous people who were the original inhabitants of the island. In contrast, Wei-Chieh Lin’s Four Taiwanese Folk Songs takes some of the best-known popular Taiwanese songs of the 20th century and weaves them into sonorous arrangements for the concert stage.
The album carries a powerful message — for Formosa Quartet, and also worldwide. The group originally formed for a 2002 concert tour of Taiwan, where they joined in the New Year’s festivities of the indigenous Ami people. Violinist Jasmine Lin says, “As we feasted and danced with the Ami, we felt a connection with the Taiwanese folk—not only as possible distant kin, but also as mutual strangers from opposite corners of the globe. That spirit of inclusiveness is an underlying theme of this album. Taiwan has long been a melting pot of cultures, both Asian and Western. The story of Hungary, too, long centered around its many ethnic minorities. Yet the culture of both regions is strongly distinctive. Preserving and representing such cultural identities has become more and more crucial amidst today's fast-paced globalization. Only through acknowledgement of each ingredient can we truly understand any melting pot.”
The album From Hungary to Taiwan is itself a musical melting pot, not definable by any one genre, but rather a rich fusion of folk, classical, contemporary, and world. The Formosa Quartet offers these sounds in celebration of the uniqueness of all individuals, and the collective spirit of humanity.
1-8. Dana Wilson: Hungarian Folk Songs (2008)
Dudatánc (bagpipe dance)
A Rátóti Legények (the Rátót lads)
Láncz, Láncz (chains, chains)
Porondos Viz Martján (on the river bank)
Ej Görbénye (Hey, Görbénye)
Máramarosi Táncok (dances in Máramures)
Nechocze Ty, Hanulienka Z Rana Do Trna (Don’t go at dawn, Hanulienka)
9. Lei Liang: Song Recollections (2016)
10-14. Béla Bartók: String Quartet No. 4, Sz. 91 (1928)
Prestissimo, con sordino
Non troppo lento
15-18. Wei-Chieh Lin: Four Taiwanese Folk Songs (2016)
Seaport Goodbye | 港邊惜別
Hengchun Folksong | 恆春民謠
Dark Sky | 天黑黑
Rain Night Flower | 雨夜花
Producer: Clancy Newman
Engineer: Christopher Willis
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