Uwaga! - swan fake
Ars Produktion ARS 38 220
Classical - Crossover
Popular classics reimagined.
Christoph König (violin & viola)
Maurice Maurer (violin)
Miroslav Nisic (accordion)
Matthias Hacker (double bass)
Philipp Armbruster (conductor)
Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 2, 2016
UWAGA! A warning (‘beware’ in Polish), because this one is very much out of the ordinary: “With unrestrained enthusiasm ‘Uwaga!’ carries the idea of crossover to extremes” (copied from Uwaga’s web site). Crossover? Sure. But also a little bit of everything: Classical, big band, jazz combo, pop, disco, Balkan folk, easy listening? You name it. The sub title ‘swan fake’ may, to some, even suggest that all of it is nothing but a sublime proof of a spoof. I don’t think it is. There is a deeper thought behind it and I’m sure that public and musicians have enjoyed themselves immensely. Its goal achieved?
This is a life recording from a concert last June, and so it starts with 22 secs applause. A festive occasion, so it seems; a ‘Konzert für Junge Leute’ (concert for youngsters). Many orchestras seek ways to deal with young audiences and how to get them to the concert hall. An experiment? One may say so. A successful one? It took me a while to get used to. But in the end I must say that some of it is brilliant, clever and glorious. Especially for people with an open and unbiased mind, though I must admit that I liked some things better than other’s.
The opening with Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance is a winner. After the combo’s lead-in comes the serious orchestral bit followed by Philip Armbruster, the orchestra’s assistant conductor, letting the full orchestra’s brass swing it out in Big Band and Big Brass style. Uwaga’s violinist, Maurice Maurer, brings Stephane Grapelli back on stage. (‘Electro pop and up tempo swing’, they call it).
The mood is set. Time for something more demure.
The other violinist (and viola player) Christophe König does a stylish job in John S. Bach’s Chorale ‘Ach Grosser König’ from BWV 245, arranged by him for the Uwaga combo with lovely stringed background. Both these tracks sound much more impressive than the same on Uwaga’s web site for combo alone; a huge difference.
Starting the Sibelius concerto with Mr. Maurer as soloist, it soon develops into what is called ‘Balkan dancing grooves’, when the accordion comes to life with a Serbian high speed polka. But restless ‘fidgety feet’ are stopped again in the calm of a Sibelius concert mix, with said fiddler in the leading role. (I don’t and won’t judge his interpretation here, as this is no part of what the concert’s objective is about).
Off late Mahler’s Adagietto tops by far the classical hit list, but this version did, until now, not exist. It is presented in a melodramatic cross-over concept that will not fail to appeal to a young public.
I’m less enthusiastic about the Swan Fake. An amalgamation close to disco and a bit too chaotically noisy in places. I realize though that this may have more to do with (my) age and taste. This said I was glad that the Isle of Lewis came next floating in as if we were going to Paradise Island. Knowing however that this island does exist and that it lies off the Northern coast of Scotland (Outer Hebrides), I did not have to wait long for the storm to sweep up the calm. Captain Armbruster and his crew had no problem in doing so whenever needed.
The programme ends with Grieg in rhythmic and gloomy fashion: ‘Killing in the name of the Bergkönig’. A real and nerve-wrecking spine-chiller. And yes, the finishing ‘touch’ is there. And how!
Big applause assured.
Whatever one might think, it is a serious (and in my eyes successful) attempt to win over the younger generation to go to the concert hall and learn to listen with different ears to real music with real musicians that do not depend on amplifiers and technical tricks to be heard.
I’m not sure to what extent a ‘mix of everything’ will continue to appeal to classical music fans at repeated listening. But they may be tempted to at least hear it once. On the other hand, I have no doubt that ‘all in the hall’ will want this disk and, as I’m sure, all the members of the Dortmund Philharmoniker.
What amazes me most is how the engineers have been able to get all this in its proper, musical perspective. I take it that all members of Uwaga had their individual mike and were amplified as needed, but never out of proportion. Another job well done!
Copyright © 2016 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net