Friday, April 30, 2010

In review--Bring on the Mandolin

Mike Marshall
And Caterina Lichtenberg
Adventure Music

Two parts Bach, one part Brazilian with Venezuelan and French seasonings describes American mandolin player Mike Marshall’s latest recording on Adventure Music. The virtuoso has literally traveled around the world with his mandolin and on this recording he teams up with Early Music mandolin player Caterina Lichtenberg, thus the simple and direct CD title. Opening with a Bach violin sonata in which Marshall plays double-duty on cello, the duo then launches into their musical journey which hop scotches its way through American bluegrass, Brazilian jazz, Early Music, Bulgarian and Venezuelan classical. And yes, this exhilarating recording leaves a listener breathless.

Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata VI for Two Violins (French baroque) sounds absolutely gorgeous when played on two mandolins. The movements alternate between gentle and lilting to enchanting. The short Bulgarian folk tune oddly doesn’t feel out of place following a baroque piece and likewise the pieces by Brazilian Jacob Do Bandolim find a home on this disc too. However, in this carnival of musical genres, Suite Venezolana (Jose Antonio Zambrano) quickly became my favorite work on the CD.

Marshall and Lichtenberg provide brave and bold arrangements of work that surprisingly seamlessly fits together. And with only the 2 mandolins and the cello (brought out on occasion), the duo creates a symphony of sounds. Plucking and strumming their way through time and place, these virtuosos prove that any style of music in the right hands can be shaped into a musical adventure of a lifetime.

Bach’s music has already been touted as healing. Add folkloric traditions from South America and Bulgaria which contribute a cross cultural music exchange with the power to thrill discerning listeners. Marshall’s and Lichtenberg’s recording uplifts while introducing bluegrass audiences to European classical and vise verse. And the listening experience feels priceless to me. After listening to this CD several times, I’m now a huge fan of Mike Marshall and his global musical village. Have mandolin; will travel.

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