EP Review: Elizabeth Tsung – Illusions

Elizabeth Tsung is a New York City, USA-based violinist and composer who has just released her new EP Illusions. Though well-known and well-regarded in the Big Apple, she’s new to us here in original York, and I was excited to get to know her music. Here’s my track by track review of the EP.

By Graeme Smith

With her music, Elizabeth takes classical influences such as Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, and Ravel, and infuses them with modern sensibilities. A fiery Opening sees Elizabeth playing quickly, expressing a huge amount of narrative in a minute and a half burst which ends as suddenly as it begins, giving way to ambient rain sounds.

Elegy No. 1 is altogether lighter and more measured. A gentle piano melody opens things up, drawing you into a magical world, before staccato strings and moments of percussion add texture. It’s all so wonderfully atmospheric. When I closed my eyes I imagined myself in a mystical forest after a rain storm, with chimes acting as waterdrops falling from leaves.

Now suitably enticed, it was time for part one of the title track. Illusions provides the principle narrative of Elizabeth’s collection. Strings take the fore in part one, playing a mournful melody. It’s carried into Part II, where the playing becomes more expressive with shimmering crescendos. It’s perhaps Elizabeth’s sound at its most classical, but playful plucked strings part way through give it a contemporary edge. It’s lovely stuff.

The EP concludes with Elegy No. 2. There is a sadness to it too, but it feels a little more hopeful than what has come. Elizabeth created this collection as a way of processing mental health issues and that sense of internal conflict comes through strongly here. It’s a powerful piece in which Elizabeth feels at her most emotionally vulnerable.

Elizabeth says of her EP that it’s about being human. While there is a sense of magic and whimsy about it, I have to say it’s the sense of humanity that comes through strongest. It’s a beautifully relatable story that she paints with her music and I can’t recommend Illusions enough. You can listen to the whole EP below.