Alice Ping Yee Ho is renowned in the Canadian music community for her elegant compositions that play inventively among dissonances, pleasing harmonies, and colours inspired by Chinese opera and folk music. Her new CD, A Woman’s Voice, draws together a number of her vocal works and features beautiful singing and playing by various Canadian musicians, as well as text from several prominent Canadian writers.
It’s a big project, reflecting the composer’s impressive output and presenting the variety of, and similarities between, these vocal works. All are colourful, dramatic, lyrical; all express mood and text clearly. There is, however, a sameness to some of the music which is less evident if the works are listened to individually, rather than taking in the whole recording at once.
Highlights include the moving “Anna’s Aria,” presented by the fine duo of soprano Katy Clark and pianist Jialiang Zhu. “Da Ji’s Aria—Moon Aria” shows off Vania Chan’s clarity and sparkle, while “Weeping Iris” presents a lovely contrast with the plangent tones of Ariadne Lih alongside talented writer/pianist Tong Wang. Toronto-based singers Maeve Palmer and Alex Hetherington also soar seamlessly.
The singers’ diction is sometimes overly present, and breathing is distractingly audible in the recording. There are some discrepancies in the liner notes, and a bit more written context about each piece would really help—including the writers’ inspirations. These are minor quibbles, though, about an enchanting and important work.