International Piano magazine calls Free Hand Anthology 'fascinating and substantial'

Last September, the leading magazine for the piano world'International Piano' published a wonderful review of the Free Hand Anthology Vol 1 that MCC published at the end of 2019 after the first ever Free Hand Festival 2019, the delay in the review owing to the difficulies during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021.

The magazine called the first ever compilation of Malaysian 21st Century piano works "a fascinating and substantial selection of music for today that deserves international attention."

Here is the full article below. And composers interested in Free Hand 2022 will be happy to know that the deadline for submission has been extended till 14 Feb 2022.

By Murray McLachlan

This elegant and substantial volume of 15 contrasted pieces by living Malaysian composers is the direct result of the 2019 Free Hand Festival for contemporary music in which Mei Yi Foo premiered many of the works presented here. 

The motivations behind these works and their stylistic diversity is extremely contrasted. There is music from Malaysian history, including Raja Alif's evocative 'Dol Said' (2019), which evokes in a six-movement miniature suite the conflicts between Said and the British Empire forces.There are pieces inspired by the gamelan, including Tazul Tajuddin's Kabus Pantun (2018) which transforms gamelan numberings into sounds. 

In contrast is Adeline Wong's athletic. but admirably concentrated toccata-textured 'Herringbone' (2018). which, in its sudden shifts of sound evokes the abrupt changing course of a shoal of herring.

Equally concentrated is Ilysia Tan's 'Drive' (2017), in which middle C acts as a sonic magnet - a force to which everything in the piece is attracted and relates. Rayner Naili's 'Roh Bintang' (2019) recalls the late works of the Maltese composer Charles Camilleri in its fascination with stars and space, resulting in extreme 'extra-pianistic' sounds. 

Other works are more conventional in the sense that direct influences from celebrated Western composers can easily be heard. Into this latter category comes Jessica Cho's award-winning 'Five Little Pieces' (2010), which is influenced by Kurtag's Jaketog. 

Intriguingly there are pieces that require new notational tools, such as 'Titik Titik' by Ainolnaim Azizol, which requires electronic support and makes a powerful environmental statement, with contrasted sections unfolding the sad contemporary plight of mercury poisoning leading to 'dancing cat fever'. 

Elsewhere we have works inspired by ancient China, ('The Woodcutter's Song' from Choke Yuan Teng) and psychology (Chow Jun Yi's 'Deep in the City'), as well as the striking collage that is CH Loh's 'Morning at Klang Harbour', complete with quotations from Elvis Presley, the Berg Violin Concerto and Debussy's La Mer. A fascinating and substantial selection of music for today that deserves international attention.

September 2021 • International Piano  (

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