I am having long time affair with Stark – Linnemann Quartet right now and it is a rather very pleasant one. Previously reviewed Chopin Recordings I, II and III were both beautifully re-worked and executed in a equally sophisticated way. The same can be said about, today’s already classic Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, which started Paul’s journey into classical music transcriptions some six years back from where we are now.
I was looking forward to getting my hands on that one badly, not just because I know what the band is capable of, but also due to it is such a well-known and so many times re-worked piece of music, what raises the bar significantly. And, I mean so many did it, from great composers who are Iconic themselves to Pop or Rock Stars. I drop all those stories as well as the original one about The Pictures as it is widely recognised, and if not, it is easy to trace if someone needs to. The snippet of music which came in the middle of the summer only spiced my appetite, so when I finally had heard it I was gobsmacked not only with the music itself and the way it had been made, but also by the fact that I could see that the style they created is now a matured hallmark which I can recognise, What do I mean by that, then ? Just listen.
Let’s start from the most dance of the Pictures, the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. Paul previously already was mixing Latin music dances into his classical re- arrangements, so listening to the little Rhumba illustrating this there I was delighted to see the consequence in his work as well consistence in his style. Keeping the right balance between the funky rhythm and an infantilism of the sketched soundscape is the biggest strength there.
Other is Tuileries, second most joyful of the entire suite. Here the theme comes after percussion intro, brought gently by the clarinet again. And not before the bluesy rhythm had been introduced by the double bass. But this is clearly Linnemann’s show off. Here from the silky intro, sounding like sunrays going between the branches to the Brubeck’s Quartet alike sound meets Miles Davis Lift to The Scaffold. All dynamism and emotions of those interactions are sketched by his brushes. Paul introduces the Ball-room theme with his piano like a cruise ship in the turquoise oceanic depths.
Coming after Bydlo, by all the contrast brings immediate image of heavy toil and hard work effort by repetitive piano clusters joined by Iman Spaargaren’s tenor saxophone. Then repeating the lines through the chord progressions, a and wind improvisation bringing the image of disturbance, is nothing but excellence!
Following Goldberg and Schmule, again makes us dance, but to an entirely different melody. What starts like Juan Tizol’s Caravan becomes wonderfully moved by Spaargaren’s clarinet into Hasidic folk tune, driven by the rhythm like from an Ellington-esque Far East Suite. Another little gem blending together decades of Jazz with Orchestral heritage, Indian Raga and Judaic tunes. All again the music which had been originally written to bring a joy to the hearts and move your feet.
The main framework of the Work, its pillars should I say, are obviously the break outs named Promenades, total five out of sixteen orchestral pieces makes it one/third of the music.
Here SLQ doesn’t disappoint either, bringing a wonderful makeover to each of them when in the same time manage to prevent the tension they build in the original score. First oscillates between Ravel’ian piano reverb holding stridden Bolero rhythm and clarinet and drums shifting tempo into the gentle Bossa, Transition never happens and the balance between those two worlds holds the tension.
Second starts in Bill Evans attributing Piano Trio style. Paul’s melancholic and imaginative piano intro turns into the Waltz, which again by differential tension on keys relying on gentle Linnemann’s drumming steps like bare feet on the carpet.
Third is pure Blues, and the rhythmic intervals are just wonderful, section goes on like Mint Hinton and Jeff “Tain” Watts at their best. My heart is just growing like an elephant.
Forth is just a short interlude, lasting hardly 52 seconds, but it is stepping into the dark with heavy, Milonga like, sadness.
When I just guided you through nine images, there is still seven more waiting to be discovered by careful, sensitive listener. I don’t want to spare you of all that pleasure. All of them are real gems worth effort to find them. This is simply an exquisite approach which SLQ completed here and to me this CD is already a classic, right in line with the best Mussorgsky’s interpretations created in the past. Hats off.