Jake Schepps, banjo – An Evening in the Village – The Music of BELA BARTOK – Fine Mighty RecordsMichel Tirabosco, panflute & Denis Fedorov, accordion – Printemps (Works of BACH & VIVALDI) – Gallo

by | Sep 27, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

Jake Schepps, banjo – An Evening in the Village – The Music of BELA BARTOK – Fine Mighty Records 1003 [jakeschepps.com] *****:
(Ensemble incl. Ryan Drickey, violin; Matt Flinner, mandolin; Ross Martin, guitar; Ben Sollee, cello; Eric Thorin, doublebass; On some tracks also: Grant Gordy, guitar; Greg Garrison & Ian Hutchison on doublebass)
Michel Tirabosco, panflute & Denis Fedorov, accordion – Printemps (Works of BACH & VIVALDI) – Gallo CD-1303, 57:00 [Distr. by Albany] *****:
(With Ensemble Concordia Discors sextet)
What fun to hear entirely new interpretations of familiar classical works on such unexpected instruments as these!  Colorado-based banjoist Jake Schepps comes of course from an American folk and bluegrass tradition, but has obviously been influenced by the amazing recordings by Chris Thiele and Bela Fleck of Bach and other classical composers on the banjo.  He zeroed in on the already heavily folk-influenced music of the Hungarian Bela Bartok (who had spent time traveling around Eastern Europe with Kodaly recording authentic folk musicians on primitive cylinder records).  The folk traditions of not only Hungary but also Romania, Bulgaria and beyond are strong in Bartok’s unique modern compositions.
Schepps has taken 19 Bartok selections, primarily for one or two violins, for piano solo or for orchestra, and performs them with a string band which demonstrates that this type of sound is not necessarily limited to Americana grassroots folk music. Many of the transcriptions come from Bartok’s 44 Duos for violin, his piano series titled Mikrokosmos, or his Hungarian Sketches for orchestra. But just for fun he also throws in one American roots fiddle tune—”Cousin Sally Brown”—played with a strong dash of Hungarian flavor. Schepps thinks Bartok sounds like some of the best acoustic music he has ever heard, and it certainly must have turned a few heads around the Nashville studios where the album was recorded, to see these country-looking string band players wailing on Bartok!
TrackList: Hungarian Sketches, BB 103: I. An Evening in the Village 4:55   2. 44 Violin Duos, Bb 104: Book III. Xxxv. Ruthenian Kolomeika 1:52   3. Mikrokosmos, BB 105, Vol. 3: No. 78. Five-tone Scale 2:47   4. Cousin Sally Brown 2:22   5. 44 Violin Duos, Bb 104: Book III. Xxxii: Dance From Maramaros (Máramarosi Tánc) 1:15   6. Mikrokosmos, BB 105, Vol. 6: No. 150. 6 Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm III 3:44   7. For Children, Bb 53, Vol. 2: No. Xxxi. Stars, Stars Brightly Shine 2:34   8. 44 Violin Duos, BB 104: Book I. IX. Play Song (Játék) 0:34   9. 44 Violin Duos, Bb 104: Book I. XIII. Wedding Song (Lakodalmas) 1:30 10. 44 Violin Duos, Bb 104: Book IV. Xxxviii. Romanian Whirling Dance (Forgatós) 0:47 11. For Children, BB 53, Vol. 4: XIV. Romance: I Know a Little Forest 1:48 12. 44 Violin Duos, BB 104: Book I. IX. Play Song (Játék) 3:08 13. Romanian Christmas Songs, BB 67: I. Series 4:37 14. 44 Violin Duos, BB 104: Book I. XIV. Pillow Dance (Párnás Tánc) 0:49 15. Mikrokosmos, BB 105, Vol. 6: No. 149. 6 Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm II 4:09 16. Hungarian Sketches, BB 103: III. Melody 2:19 17. 44 Violin Duos, BB 104: Book I. VI. Hungarian Song 1 (Magyar Nóta) 0:45 18. Mikrokosmos, BB 105, Vol. 6: No. 153. 6 Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm VI 2:19 19. Romanian Folk Dances, BB 68: I. Stick Game (Jocul cu bât?)

[audaud-hr]
The performance and recording of classical works on panpipes seems to be more popular in Europe than in North America,  Zamfir has been the No. 1 name in this effort, but I was surprised to see that Michel Tirabosco has out a whole series of panflute CDs for the Gallo label in Switzerland.  This particular one is on the theme of the Spring season—about renewal, refreshment and life. The Vivaldi and Bach works all fall into this general theme, and are presented in fine chamber arrangements with the sextet of strings and harpsichord.  Accordionist Fedorov is also a composer, organist, harpsichordist and expert in music of the Baroque—especially Bach.
The selections all fit very well into the unusual instrumental aggregation.  Bach was known for often transcribing his music for various instruments, and the opening Double Concerto in C minor—originally written for violin and oboe—and later for two harpsichords—is here transferred to panpipes and accordion.  And it’s a delight, preserving Bach’s true spirit.  This may even become my personal favorite version of the Double Concerto. The other five works follow in the same style.  What a strangely appealing sound the panflute has! I also like Shakuhachi and recorders, but I think the panflute—when as well-played as here—is currently my favorite.
TrackList: BACH: Double Concerto; VIVALDI: “Spring” Concerto from The Four Seasons; BACH: Sonata for flute & harpsichord BWV 1020; VIVALDI: “Winter” Concerto from The Four Seasons; BACH: Orchestra Suites No. 2 & Air for G String from No. 3.
—John Sunier

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