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Collection - Devil's Dance: Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /January/


Devil's Dance:
John WILLIAMS 'Devil's Dance' from The Witches of Eastwick
John MORRIS 'A Transylvanian Lullaby' from Young Frankenstein
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Caprice fantastique
  Plus works by Grieg; Brahms; Saint-Saëns; Mendelssohn; Sarasate; and Paganini etc.
  Gil Shaham (violin) with Jonathan Feldman (piano)
  DG 463 483-2   [69:07]

La Ronde des lutins (Scherzo fantastique), Antonio Bazzini * Graceful Ghost, William Bolcom * Walpurgisnacht Op.75 no.4, Johannes Brahms * Puck, Edvard Grieg * Caprice fantastique, Erich Wolfgang Korngold * Hexenlied op.8 no.8, Felix Mendelssohn * Young Frankenstein, John Morris * Caprice in B flat major op.1 no.13, Nicolò Paganini * Danse macabre in G minor, Camille Saint-Saëns * Concert fantasy on Gounod's 'Faust' Pablo de Sarasate * Sonata in G minor, 'Devil's Trill', Giuseppe Tartini * The Witches of Eastwick devil's dance, John Williams * Sonata for solo violin in A minor, 1: Obsession Eugène Ysaÿe

The devil has long been reputed to be partial to the violin, and the booklet notes by David Lawrence make a good assessment as to why this should be so. What the notes don't do is offer any background on the music on devil's dance, or offer a shred of information about violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Jonathan Feldman. There are 13 pieces, mostly arrangements of well known romantic classical works with satanic and/or supernatural associations.

The first two tracks are different. The opening 'Devil's Dance' is arranged as a duet for violin and piano by John Williams from his own score for the 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick. This is not a sign of cross-over dumbing-down, but a fiendishly witty scherzo with a malevolent driving pulse suggesting that time is running out. Williams arrangement is fresh and vital and Shaham attacks the propulsive melody with tremendous energy and glee. The second track is Jonathan Feldman's arrangement of 'A Transylvanian Lullaby' from the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein. A deliciously knowing piece which pays due homage in all the right places while simultaneously taking itself seriously.

Elsewhere we have a transcription of Grieg's tribute to 'Puck' and the charming light music piece, 'Graceful Ghost' by William Bolcom; these in contrast to the darker goings on of Brahm's 'Walpurgisnacht' and Mendelssohn's 'Hexenlied'. Such pieces are generally short, allowing the album to be dominated by two longer virtuoso showcases which leave the listener, let alone the performers, breathless. These are Pablo de Sarasate's 'Concert Fantasy on Gounod's Faust' and Giuseppe Tartini's 'Sonata in G minor Devil's Trill'.

This is dynamic, exhilarating, at times witty, music making. Fiery, intense, passionate and not a little disturbing if one stops to think about the subject matter. It's not the sort of disc to listen to all the way through at once, a few tracks at a time being the best way to savour this fine musicianship. If the presentation is tacky by DG's normally aristocratic standards, the sound is demonstration quality. When called to, Shahman and Feldman play as if their lives depended on it. Let's pray no one had to sell their soul.

Gary S. Dalkin


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