“No Boundaries” – The 5 Browns = GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; LECOUNA: Malaguena; COPLAND/DVORAK: Simple Gifts/Goin’ Home; NOVACEK: Full Stride Ahead Rag; LIEBERMANN: Gargoyles; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations – RCA Red Seal

by | Apr 5, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“No Boundaries” – The 5 Browns, pianos = GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; LECOUNA: Malaguena; COPLAND/DVORAK: Simple Gifts/Goin’ Home; NOVACEK: Full Stride Ahead Rag; RAVEL: Feria; LIEBERMANN: Gargoyles; LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations on a Theme of Paganini; GINASTERA: Danzas Argentinas; RACHMANINOFF: Valse, Romance; STRAVINSKY: The Firebird – RCA Red Seal 82876-78719-2,  61:32 ****:

The 5 Browns first album was a DualDisc with Dolby Digital Surround to properly display the spatial effects coming from the five grand pianos performing at once (although DTS would have been nicer). It was No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart for 8 weeks. Now the three selections on this CD have all 5 Browns squashed together; might as well have mono – as RCA did years ago for The First Piano Quartet! The truth is this one is the CD-only release, and there will be a DualDisc release as with the first.

OK, in spite of my grumps, this is a great second album from the amazing all-sibling, Juillard-educated piano quintet of sisters and brothers ranging from age 20 to 27. I can’t think of a better way to promote classical piano music listening and study with the younger generation.  These terrific looking and playing kids are a real musical phenomenon, and I’m sure this is only the beginning of a fantastic career for them all. They’re on a U.S. tour right now.

The opening Rhapsody in Blue is a 5-piano arrangement for all the Browns, and that goes for the closing eight-minute arrangement of Stravinsky’s Firebird.  In between the 5 Browns play a short medley of the Quaker hymn Simple Gifts and Dvorak’s Goin’ Home theme from his New World Symphony. The other eight selections are divided evenly between two- and one three-piano works and solos by three of the Browns. The most modern work is Liebermann’s edgy Gargoyles, which is well-handled by Melody Brown. Ryan Brown delivers an excitingly percussive version of the Ginastera Argentine Dances. Gregory must be considered the most advanced technically of the Browns, because he gets two solo selections, and one is the knuckle-busting Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody. (The other two we haven’t identified are Desirae and Deondra.)

 – John Sunier

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