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Arrangements from Bizet's opera
Ksenija Sidorova (accordion)
Nuevo Mundo (instrumental ensemble); Itamar Doari (percussion); Reentko Dirks (guitar); Michael Abramovich (piano/musical direction)
Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra/Sascha Goetzel
rec. August-November 2015, Berlin, Istanbul, London
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 5224 [52:36]

This is not an album for purists. You might have guessed that from the fact that Bizet's name appears nowhere on the cover. The seventeen tracks are free arrangements informed by knowing twenty-first century intelligence fantasising around the music from Carmen. This is a personality-centric album with the virtuoso accordionist Ksenija Sidorova at its centre and entertainment in satellite movement around that centre. It's not a solo album. Sidorova can be heard with various soloists and with two ensembles: Nuevo Mundo (flute, clarinet, soprano sax, trumpet, trombone, harp, violin, cello, bass) or the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sascha Goetzel. The orchestra appears in Chanson bohéme, Love Song, Sunrise Over Seville, The Other Woman, Date With Destiny and Reflections.

Sidorova is given a big confident sound-image well to the fore of the ensemble or orchestral; take The Other Woman as an example. That towering self-assurance is replicated in the booklet in which the DG design consultants have been given free rein with seven sultry and brooding images of Sidorova: Sidorova as Carmen in most of the cases. The music sidles, slides and swoons - femme fatale undiluted. Mind you there is a vein of lively boastful strut as well as in À la bohémienne. Sidorova impresses, there's no doubt of that. The inherent wheeze of the instrument is controlled and indulged in quite a breath-taking way and when a steady note production is needed it is forthcoming almost as if the accordion is emulating a violin (Chanson bohème).

On occasions Sidorova is joined by a real violin. This comes in the form of a smiling smooch, straight from the mainstream style-book of Stéphane Grappelli and the Hot Club de France. At other moments there are tango influences from Argentina and Piazzolla. La fiesta plays with the concept as it patters and hoofs it with the best. There are touching moments too such as in the misty suggestiveness of Reflections and Love song. Goetzel and the Borusan Istanbul band have made quite a vivid impact in various contexts but here they exercise restraint and play down their accustomed neon: fidelity to professionalism.

This concept album joins a long line of re-creations leaning on the resilience of the Carmen opera. It stands at the other extreme from Shchedrin and Sarasate and is closer to Carmen Jones but with its own popular-orientated identity.

Sidorova has also done 'serious' in a Champs Hill CD 'Classical Accordion' reviewed here and has had a walk-on part in another DG celebrity disc for guitarist Miloš Karadaglić (review review).

Brace yourself: this album is not for the strait-laced.

Rob Barnett


1. Carmen's Walk [0:49]
2. Seguidillas [2:40]
3. La Siesta [2:53]
4. Chanson bohème [4:28]
5. Love Song [3:53]
6. Soir mélancolique [2:14]
7. Sunrise Over Seville [5:15]
8. In The Cards [5:13]
9. La Fiesta [1:57]
10. The Other Woman [3:55]
11. Spanish Pride [2:22]
12. À la bohémienne [2:41]
13. Date With Destiny [3:32]
14. Reflections [2:11]
15. Daybreak [3:31]
16. Toreador (Los Toreros) [4:11]
17. Carmen's Shadow [0:51]



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