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The Beatles - Arrangements by Luboš Krtička for string quartet
Eleanor Rigby [1:55]
Blackbird [4:13]
Can’t Buy Me Love [3:09]
Julia [4:02]
Come Together [2:46]
Here Comes The Sun [2:58]
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds [3:36]
Michelle [3:15]
I Will [2:43]
Yesterday [3:37]
Honey Pie [3:00]
The Fool on the Hill [3:16]
I Want You So (She’s So Heavy) [4:45]
Wihan Quartet
rec. November 2000, Domovina Studio, Prague
NIMBUS NI 6272 [43:50]

This, to use the horse breeding parlance — or violin ownership if you’re highbrow — is ex-Lotos. That was the label on which the thirteen tracks first appeared back in 2001, and they were recorded the previous year. So their appearance now is a little strange, given the Wihan’s reputation, but it’s part of their continuing relationship with Nimbus. I should add that this information is scrupulously noted at the back of the booklet. There have been times when labels have not acknowledged this kind of thing, and it’s good that it’s made clear that this is not a new release as such.
 
Enough of the preamble. There are some snooty citizens around who would find it appalling that the Wihan should have turned their hand to Beatles arrangements. Doubtless they would have reproved Heifetz for White Christmas, or the august London and Flonzaley Quartets for their excursions into populist areas back in the mists of recorded time: John McCormack, too. Not me. I like Luboš Krtička’s arrangements, for the most part, and he knows better than to go on over-egging the Beatles’ pudding. There are some lovely fresh textures in Eleanor Rigby and plenty of swaying rhythms, whilst Blackbird has folkloric hues to enjoy. Can’t Buy Me Love is edgily jagged and Julia turns into a cradle song, warm of tone, deftly flecked with pizzicato. How best to convey the ‘schwoofs’ of Come Together? Give this arrangement a listen and then enjoy the pattering percussion, and the jazz cum bluesy escapade of the first violin part.
 
The trippy pleasures of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds are approached via single lines and richer unison figures, a sensible solution, and this contrasts with the sweetly textured Michelle, ripe with burnished romanticism. There are more hints of folk fiddling in I Will, whilst Yesterday receives an urgent opening alternating thereafter between mellifluous and terse. There’s something of the dapper Ragtime about parts of Honey Pie and there’s due solemnity as well as affectionate lyricism, with some ripe harmonies, in The Fool on the Hill. Things end with a bracing, angularly accented, somewhat sinewy – and a bit repetitious – I Want You.
 
I enjoyed this a lot. It’s only 43 minutes but then – hey – that’s pretty much LP length.
 
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett