The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Yung-Chiao Wei (double bass) Chao-I Chou (piano)
Composer: Brahms, Zhan-hao Ho/Chen Kang

Yung-Chiao Wei was born in Taiwan and began learning the double bass at the age of twelve. She moved to the US to complete her musical education at the New England Conservatoire in Boston. She is presently sharing her time between concert appearances and the role of double bass professor at the Louisiana State University.

The disc provides a searching examination for her formidable technique, and there is never any doubt that she is a uniquely gifted and brilliant exponent of the instrument. What is difficult to understand is her choice of programme. The inspiration for Butterfly Lovers is the Chinese story of two lovers who come from vastly different social backgrounds, and with parents forbidding marriage, they die, leaving their united souls to fly away in the shape of butterflies. Wei plays beautifully throughout, but a double bass is not the butterfly of instruments, and those flights of fantasy and decoration high on the violin in the original score are hopelessly lost here.

The instrument is more suited to the Brahms E minor Cello Sonata, but even here I miss the light lyricism in the composer’s original concept, and though I much admire Wei’s intonation in double bass terms, it does not stand detailed comparison with the many recordings from the great cellists.

Chao-I Chou is an excellent partner, though the recording of the piano sounds as if it is in an empty school hall. However, there is plenty to admire in her technique and sound in this rather curious release.