Polaris [7:30]
Palladio (1996) [5:46]
Mauricio YAZIGI
Roads [4:40]
Fading Away [4:13]
She is Like the Swallow [5:12]
The Woods [7:18]
The Boy and the Rose [3:46]
Like it is 4:36]
Giulia CACCINI (1551 - 1618)
Ave Maria (arr. Mauricio Yazigi) [4:25]
Hey Jude (1968) [5:28]
Boston String Quartet (Christopher Vuk, Anastasia Sukhopara (violins); Chen Lin (viola); Masanori Taniguchi (cello)) with many guests
rec. details not given
NAVONA RECORDS NV 5808 [52:58]

I wondered what this CD was all about and was none the wiser after I started listening to it. The first track isn’t for string quartet at all but some kind of orchestra, playing the kind of music one used to hear in 1950s British films when music was required for scenes in the Indian sub-continent. What we have here is a kind of belly dance with rhythm section. Karl Jenkins’s famous Palladio starts with almost 60 seconds of female vocalising before the orchestra - this is a string quartet CD isn’t it? - starts. She cannot be silenced - indeed, she never shuts up and the result is rather like a poorly performed Bachianas Brasileiras, where the singer is unsure as to where she is going.

Two pieces by Mauricio Yazigi come next. Yazigi is a Chilean composer and, according to his website, having “… reached the highest of musical levels. Mauricio decided to bring his craft to a larger stage and came to the USA in 2003”. Lucky larger stage. Roads is a poor pop song without words and Fading Away doesn’t; rather it’s a pop song with the usual banal words one expects from this kind of ephemera. Mind you, the string quartet writing is quite good in the central instrumental section.

She is Like the Swallow is a folk-song in a lovely arrangement for voice, well sung here by Fionnuala Gill, and string quartet. This is unaffected, totally unpretentious and makes a nice change from what has gone before. The Woods is a simple pop song sung with too much vibrato by Giorgia Fumanti, but the quartet writing is quite nice. The Boy and the Rose is a lacklustre slow waltz which is neither a pastiche nor a homage to an earlier time, certainly it could have been written at any time in the past 100 years.

John Courduvelis’s Like it is is another pop song, this time as well as the quartet - it’s in there somewhere - there’s a “rock instrumentation” performed by Common Thrill, which I assume is a beat combo. Courduvelis undertakes the vocals himself and we could be listening to poor Jim Morrison or David Bowie without his trademark lazy slurring delivery. For me, this was the low point of the CD. Caccini’s Ave Maria receives a real 16th century treatment with guitar and the dueting voices of Fumanti and Gill. It is a delight to hear Gill’s unaffected voice. But the pseudo pop treatment is unappealing.

Although I was never a Beatles fan I was heartily grateful finally to reach Hey Jude, knowing that the end was near. This arrangement features some wobbly singing, and questionable diction, from Agustin Simon, not to mention his trying to hit notes which are clearly beyond him - a typical experience for a pop singer.

I have a question. Exactly who is this disk aimed at? It cannot be the classical music listening public for there is nothing here which could possibly be for those people. Is it perhaps an attempt to classical-up (sex-down perhaps) pop music type things into pseudo-classical works so that kids might start listening to the Beethoven Symphonies. Or is it a cynical attempt by some people to try and create art which is so highflown that we mere mortals simply cannot grasp and understand what is going on? My opinion? It’s pseudo-intellectual claptrap and it’s worthless. This disk might find an audience somewhere, but if I were you I’d give it a wide berth for I can find no redeeming features whatsoever.

Bob Briggs