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CD Review: St. Petersburg Musette Ensemble
La Plaza de Granada

Vladimir Uskakov - piano-accordion, piano, Korg M1 (2, 13)
Sergei Likhachov - button-accordion
Vladimir Bogomolov - guitar
Vladimir Kourganov - bass guitar
Victor Chafranov - drums
Special guest: David Tcherniavsky - violin (3)


1. M. Helbert, M. Larcange: La Plaza de Granada
2. (Traditional): Valse Arabesque
3. A. Piazzolla: Milonga del Angel
4. D. Favre, J. Gautrin: Les Doigts D'Or
5. A. Piazzolla: Oblivion
6. R. Galliano: La Valse A Margaux
7. S. Likhachov: Katherina
8. G. van Parys: La Complainte des Infideles
9. G. Gershwin: I Got Rhythm
10. E. Doga: Cascade de Paris
11. A. Vossen: Fliegende Blatter
12. D. Pauly: De Belfort A Paris
13. A. Astier: La Tempete
14. A Piazzolla: Libertango
15. M. Vittenet: Accordion Bohemian
16. (Traditional): Polkis
17. M. Likhachov: Foxtrot

total time: 54:49
released: 1997

label: Sono Press

P O Box 90
195426, St. Petersburg, Russia
Tel/Fax: +7-812 524-7506

Review by John Franceschina:

An exceptionally varied and beautifully arranged album, La Plaza de Granada, demonstrates the diverse tonal capabilities of the accordion (performed by Vladimir Ushakov and Sergei Likhachov) in combination with strings, guitars, percussion and electronic piano. It features highly virtuosic performances from the performers, each capable of realizing a myriad of musical styles, ranging from Spanish folk music, to Parisian waltzes, modern jazz, polkas, and Dixieland. There is, indeed, something for every taste in this musical treasure, with the high points being three compositions by the modern Argentine composer, the late Astor Piazzolla. Milonga del Angel provides an extraordinary blend of tonal colors between the accordion, violin (sensitively played by special guest artist, David Tcherniavsky) and guitars that results in an emotionally moving and sensual performance, reminding the listener that Piazzolla excelled in areas other than the tango. Piazzolla's folk-like Oblivion and characteristic Libertango continue to demonstrate how idiomatic his work is to the accordion in combination with guitar and percussion. The performances are excellent, full of nuance and feeling as well as dynamic precision and virtuosity.

Waltz Arabesque and La Tempete represent two "perpetual motion" compositions, designed to demonstrate the manual dexterity of the performers. Both are played with energy and precision and are a delight. So are the French waltzes, Les Doigts D'Or and La Valse a Margaux, highly reminiscent of Henry Mancini's waltz in A Shot in the Dark. While both have a distinct improvisatory feel, Margaux actually functions as theme and variations with well performed jazz improvisations. While the jazz emerging from this ensemble may sound somewhat consonant to Americans used to more raucous groups, it is, nevertheless, deftly and energetically performed with a great commitment to style. Katherina offers an opportunity for jazz improvisation by the guitar (Vladimir Bogomolov) and bass (Vladimir Kourganov) to excellent effect. The ensemble writing for the group is highly praiseworthy since the arrangements provide ample opportunity for all members to display their tasteful musicianship.

The disc is rounded out by energetic polkas, musette waltzes, hurdy-gurdy tunes, a Dixieland wannabe called Foxtrot, and a single composition from an American composer, George Gershwin's I Got Rhythm. One of Gershwin's personal favorites, the work is here performed as a kind of theme and variations that, oddly, in comparison with Katherina, sound dry and rather corny. The quality of musicianship does not flag in the performance, but, at least to my ear, the Gershwin is the single disappointment of an otherwise exemplary concert, highly ear-opening for those who still consider the accordion, an instrument relegated to playing Lady of Spain and various polkas. I highly recommend this album to accordion enthusiasts who will, I feel, enjoy the fine playing and expert arrangements, and to students who need to hear and understand the great potential of the instrument.

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