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The T'ang Quartet comprises (above, from left) Ang Chek Meng, Lionel Tan, Leslie Tan and Ng Yu-Ying.

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The group's new album has a quirky cover artwork plus surreal accompanying music videos including one where the members dress up as animals (above).

BT_20170728_DTTANG282TD6_3006154.jpg
The group's new album has a quirky cover artwork plus surreal accompanying music videos including one where the members dress up as animals.

Expect only the unexpected

After 25 years, the T'ang Quartet is still full of surprises.
Jul 28, 2017 5:50 AM

ONE of Singapore's premier chamber groups has released its first album in 11 years and apart from the music, it feels and looks nothing like a classical record.

Edgy and ambitious, Trampled Souls is exactly what we've come to expect from the T'ang Quartet, which comprises Ang Chek Meng (violin), Ng Yu-Ying (violin), Leslie Tan (cello) and Lionel Tan (viola).

The album is the group's third studio effort after The Art of War (2005) and Made In America c. 1893 (2006). It boasts a quirky cover artwork plus surreal accompanying music videos including one where the members dress up as animals.

The record marks the 25th anniversary of the group which is best known for its eclectic programming and fashionable dress sense.

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Trampled Souls' material are all close to the group members' hearts and it features Leos Janacek's Kreutzer Sonata, Aulis Sallinen's Some Aspects of Peltoniemi Hintrik's Funeral March, and Marjan Mozetich's Lament in the Trampled Garden.

They feature regularly in the T'ang Quartet's "live" repertoire, and incidentally, Janacek's composition is one of the first pieces the group performed together, while Mozetich's was composed in 1992, the same year the quartet formed.

The common theme of darkness runs through all three works and is conveyed cheekily through the artwork which looks like an illustration out of a children's storybook, albeit a slightly macabre and twisted one that lives up to the album title.

It was conceived by the T'ang Quartet management's in-house artist-designer Siah Tiong Hong who took inspiration from the music, before transforming it into a fantastical landscape.

Lionel Tan explains the playing children are a reference to Sallinen's composition which is based on a Finnish folk tune popular with kids, and they are depicted playing in Mozetich's Trampled Garden which is littered with the coffin and tombstones from the former's Funeral March.

The piano by the tree, meanwhile, comes from Janacek's Kreuzter Sonata.

He adds: "The quirkiness and juxtaposition of opposing elements also reflects how the music in this album is not totally dark and heavy - one can also describe the music as beautiful, cinematic and even funky."

To celebrate the release of Trampled Souls, it will be performed in its entirety on Sunday - something which the T'ang Quartet is looking forward to. "In essence, we are more of a 'live' group than a recording (one)," quips Lionel Tan. "We enjoy the interaction and feel of the audience, and the vibe of the setting more than a cold microphone."

Leslie Tan adds they "don't believe in recording for the sake of it" so each album the group releases is special: "Trampled Souls came about because of our 25th anniversary. We felt it was time to have a look at the past and see if there was anything in our repertoire that we could put on record as a representation of the T'ang Quartet. The pieces represent our past and also our philosophies."

  • Check www.tangquartet.com for more info. Trampled Souls is now available to stream on all major platforms and digital purchase on iTunes. CDs and limited edition vinyls go on sale from Aug 25. As part of the T'ang Quartet's 25th anniversary, a series of concerts will be launched, with the first being a Trampled Souls show at Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30 (3pm and 7pm). Tickets at S$50 from Apactix and Singpost outlets