The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Michael Ganian


1. Michael Ganian: One Smile
2. Michael Ganian: Espana
3. Michael Ganian: Nightengale
4. Michael Ganian: River
5. Michael Ganian: Montparnasse Bienvenue
6. Michael Ganian: Last Night
7. Michael Ganian: The Magnificent One
8. Michael Ganian: Eva
9. Michael Ganian: Red Lips
10. Michael Ganian: Verucchio
11. Michael Ganian: Verucchio

total time: 32:26
released: 1998

label: Michael Ganian
Ulrychova 41
624 00 Brno
Czech Republic

Review by John Franceschina:

Listening to Michael Ganian's romantically evocative album, River, one is immediately impressed with the performer/composer's virtuosity. Able to dispatch complicated and difficult runs and arpeggios with lightning dexterity, Ganian is equally able to negotiate single-note cantabile melodies with a sensitive, soulful quality that reminds us why the accordion remains central among European folk instruments. Add an virtually impeccable bellows technique that enables an exquisite fluidity in performance, and a command of the instrument's tonal colors, and the result is an album that would please listeners ranging from the most discerning accordion aficionados to fans of "easy listening" mood music.

Designed (like Sondheim's A Light Night Music) as an exercise in triple meter, River begins with One Smile, a waltz fantasy, reminiscent of many of Pietro Deiro's mid-twentieth century accordion solos, with a dash of Henry Mancini. A walking bassline (uncredited on the album), provides a light jazzy touch that prepares the listener for the more virtuosic folk-jazz inspired melodies that follow.

Espana introduces the listener to the accordion in combination with strings, reminding us of the extraordinary tonal capabilities of the instrument, expertly executed by Ganian. While Last Night, The Magnificent One, and Eva, all trading on the sensuously evocative mood created by accordion and strings, are expertly performed and arranged, the real high point of the album comes with the accordion solo performance of the title track. Assisted by the ever-present walking bass and percussion, the accordion evokes the relentless current of a river in a technically demanding exercise in perpetual motion. Employing a series of changing rhythmic clusters, Ganian manages to create a sense of endless variety in the face of inexorable continuity, along the lines of Smetana's Moldau, or Britten's Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. Lest Mr. Ganian be considered merely a performer of his own works, the final track is a symphonic arrangement of the accordion waltz, Verucchio, heavily inspired by the late Nino Rota.

In all, an exciting performance, well recorded but for clicks in Red Lips, and well worth the import price.

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