Classics for a New Century - Various - Classical takes on new musical meaning

2006-03-29 18:22

Sure, it's understandable that in the fast food commercial arena that is new millennium music, anything "classical" has become something of an anachronistic niche market catering to only the most cerebral listeners among us. Translated: it doesn't sell. Even movie soundtracks are being cobbled together by licensed "fresh from the chart" product nowadays. Which makes Classic for a New Century such an intriguing listen. On the one hand there's a nostalgic glimpse of classical music's fertile past. Contributions from pianist Murray Perahia (Chopin's "Etude Opus 10, no.1"), violinist Yo-Yo Ma (Massenet's "Meditation") are exhilarating interpretations of timeless masterpieces.

Yet the fact that Chopin's lilting "Nocturne in C-sharp Minor" is merely credited to The Pianist: Motion Picture Soundtrack speaks volumes. Yes, the composer as author is finally dead and buried. Stepping into the spotlight are of all things pop stars! Vocal prodigy charlotte Church and the Fair Lady friendly Operababes purport to be the new classical sensations. While undoubtedly talented singers such as Mario Frangoulis, Summer and Mary Fahl are all marketed more for their sex appeal than any bona fide classical credentials.

Nonetheless, there are several surprising gems. Piano man Billy Joel ("Opus No. 9, Waltz No.3") proves that he has an authentic understanding of classical composition. And Marcello Alvarez and Salvatore Licitra's rousing operatic ballads manage to pave a polished romantic path. Best of all though is banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck's inventive translation of Debussy's "Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum".

If the preponderance of pop, adult contemporary and ...oh, all sorts of crossover artists included on Classics for a New Century is anything to go by, then clearly the future of classical music ain't what it used to be.

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