Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Egads, There's Bach Coming Out of that Banjo!

I was a skeptic. A friend, knowing my fondness for classical music told me about Béla Fleck's CD Perpetual Motion. Fleck, a banjo virtuoso with musical roots in bluegrass and contemporary jazz, is startlingly successful in this foray into Baroque and Romantic classical music. The album title is taken from violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini's incredibly difficult piece, Moto Perpetuo, which Fleck performs exquisitely. Bach, Debussy, Chopin, Scarlatti, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven are also represented, Bach most heavily.

The transcriptions for the banjo are lovely, even poetic in some cases. The whole thing is quite musical and works much better than I would have imagined. The CD won a Grammy, and clearly deserved it.

Other popular musicians have worked in classical quite successfully, like Paul McCartney with his CD's Working Classical and Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart).

One the whole, I think the banjo works a bit better on the Baroque pieces than the Romantic ones because of its great clarity of melodic line, which mimics the lute in that regard. The Debussy, in particular does well with a warmer, more tonal lead instrument, but Fleck still manages to do it justice.

So buy it, listen to it, and expand your musical horizons a bit.

And thank you, Donna!


Blogger class-factotum said...

Let's not forget the contributions that Warner Brothers have made to popularizing classical music with their use of it in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

And Garrison Keillor has re-interpreted many a classical piece on the fiddle and banjo.

12:58 PM  

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