The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: Declassified
total time: 49:11
label: Mark Set Go
Review by Steve Mobia
Here is a post-modern treatment of some 20th century "serious composers" that often strives to be audacious and entertaining. There is no challenging listening here but certainly some surprises.
If not for the impeccable musicianship in this quartet of assorted instruments (accordion, electric violin, electric guitar, and drums) this odd variety show might be taken only as a novelty release. But actually most of these tracks work musically. In other words, the group makes the pieces their own. I wasn't constantly yearning for the original.
The arrangements of Shostakovich Preludes (originally written for piano) are the most satisfying and subtle. With the exception of Prelude #23 which is given a heavy handed pop rock sound that's pretty unimaginative (likewise a hackneyed heavy-metal guitar solo in #3), the Preludes as a whole are treated in an exciting and lyrical manner. The stylistic offshoots here are cleverly and sometimes beautifully integrated.
The selections from Samuel Barber's Excursions for Piano become a vehicle for more obvious eclecticism (jazz-zydeco, blues, bluegrass). Of the three, "Excursions 1" is the most original and surprising with nicely contrasting sections. "Excursions 2" is given a straightforward 12-bar blues treatment. "Excursions 4" is a bluegrass hoedown in the manner of Copland's famous Rodeo number. I've not heard Barber's original pieces so I can't say I get the joke if there is one. Whether these styles were suggested by the thematic material of the original or imposed entirely by the band is for someone else to say.
Stravinsky's "Devil Dance" is done well and the group adheres to the complex meter changes of the original with the exception of a thankfully short electric guitar solo set against a simple driving beat.
Francis Poulenc's Mouvements Perpetuels No. 1 is presented by accordion alone and is quite charming. I wish there had been more Poulenc Pieces.
Evan Harlan is the accordionist and arranger for all the music on this CD. He plays with assurance and subtlety, emphasizing musical values against mere exhibitionism. His arrangements are another story, but on the whole this CD is definitely enjoyable. Fans of Guy Klucevsek's Polka From the Fringe series should be sure to pick this one up.
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