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The Beatles
Arrangements by Luboš Krtička
see end of review for track listing
Wihan Quartet (Leoš Čepický (violin); Jan Schulmeister (violin);  Jiri Zigmund (viola); Aleš Kaspřík (cello))
rec. Domovina Studio, Prague, November 2000.

Cross-over recording projects are not uncommon. For some people and some vendors they are ‘classical’. Sting’s Dowland, Te Kanawa’s 1987 My Fair Lady and Tolga Kashif’s Genesis Suite and Queen Symphony, Malcolm Arnold’s foray into Deep Purple territory can also be mentioned. There are plenty of other examples.
The cross-pollination can take any number of directions: classical artists singing Broadway, rock musicians producing classical works, popular artists essaying classical, rock music translated into symphonies and suites and the Russell Watsons and Kathryn Jenkinses of this world termed ‘opera singers’ in some quarters. Then again there are those seasonal albums sung by winsome twenty year old graduates of the music colleges, handsome quartets of tenors and crooning boy sopranos in surplices. The variants are myriad and many have the power in some measure to please … or nauseate … or even move.
In the case of The Beatles the direction of travel has also been mixed. Paul McCartney has produced works in classical form. His large orchestral epic Standing Stone and his Liverpool Oratorio have been prominent though performances and recordings have not been numerous. A string quartet and string octet was deployed very effectively in Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby respectively. In 1979 there was John Rutter’s Beatles Concerto with Rostal and Schaefer on the group’s ‘own’ Parlophone label. Who should be conducting but Carl Davis; no slouch in this area; Rutter himself was to conduct when the work was re-recorded in the 2000s. Davis was to assist McCartney in producing the Liverpool Oratorio. The orchestra for that 1979 ‘Concerto’ project was, very fittingly, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The RLPO was also the orchestra for McCartney’s other two classical works listed above.
Cover versions of Beatles songs have been numerous so these string quartet arrangements by Czech rock and jazz music habituée, Luboš Krtička (b.1965) can be counted in that line-up. Krtička is reportedly equally at home in the worlds of chamber, choral and film music. In any event he does not beat the listener over the head with the tunes. It’s all quite subtle and under-stated. We lose the words but we keep the tunes although they are for the most part used with ascetic discretion. The balance is chamber music discreet rather than pop ‘neon’.
Shame about the short playing time but if you are looking for some unassertive Beatles-flavoured string quartet background then look no further.

Rob Barnett

Track listing
1. Eleanor Rigby [1:57]
2. Blackbird [4:16]
3. Can't Buy Me Love [3:11]
4. Julia [4:04]
5. Come Together [2:48]
6. Here Comes The Sun [3:01]
7. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds [3:38]
8. Michelle [3:17]
9. I Will [2:45]
10. Yesterday [3:39]
11. Honey Pie [3:03]
12. The Fool on the Hill [3:18]
13. I Want You (She's So Heavy) [4:45]