This is the second solo CD released on BIS by Japanese accordionist Mie Miki, and the first for ten years. Even more so than the first, this disc is a showcase for Miki's amazing talent. Who the composers are almost ceases to matter, because Miki in most cases shapes their music - already transcribed and chopped into three minute chunks - into something else, from another time and place, with her fantastically versatile instrument and flawless technique.
The four Baroque works on this disc, for example - by Daquin, Rameau, Domenico Scarlatti and Handel - are all magically transformed into beautiful pieces of folk music by theRead more accordion: the first three from some romantic corner of eastern Europe, the Handel from somewhere in rural England. On the other hand, Michal Oginski's Polonaise, subtitled 'Farewell to the Fatherland', is a genuine, and attractive, example of folk music made into art.
Only Schubert, in the two Moments Musicals just about retains his personality - perhaps because of the folksong-like nature of many of his lieder. Brahms's Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, from his 11 Choral Preludes for organ, sounds if anything even more beautiful on the accordion, reminiscent almost of a nostalgic campfire tune played by a homesick musical cowboy on a mouth organ!
Miki's enchanted fingers even have the ability to transform sows' ears into silk purses. For example, Michel Legrand's rather clichéd film music, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, is turned into a work of surprising pathos. On the other hand, Philip Glass's totally insipid Modern Love Waltz is beyond even her.
This CD is subtitled 'Virtuosic Miniatures', but though all the pieces are diminutive, they are not always strictly virtuosic. But the variations in Handel's The Harmonious Blacksmith certainly are, and Edward Confrey's fleeting Dizzy Fingers lives up to its name. John Zorn's Road Runner, an original work for accordion, is outrageously virtuosic and also just plain outrageous - the piece sounds like someone trying to murder an accordion while it fights back by trying to belt out tunes suggested by passers-by. Miki has probably played it as an encore many a time.
The best music on the disc comes, hardly surprisingly, from Astor Piazzolla. Piazzolla's faults rarely lie in his compositional abilities, but rather in his taste as an arranger of his own music, as anyone familiar with his Nuevo Tango ensembles can testify. Here, with Miki's unerring musicianship behind him, the impassioned, melancholic nature of Piazzolla's imaginative writing is released from the shackles of gaudy arrangement. Chiquilín de Bachín is particularly haunting, and in La Bicicleta Blanca the story of a whole life is told in less than five minutes.
As usual with BIS, sound quality is outstanding in every respect. The CD booklet leaves rather more to be desired - no notes at all about the composers or arrangers (if mentioned at all), nor about the pieces Miki plays, not even about the transcriptions themselves, which most of the works clearly are. Yet absurdly, the sheet music publisher is often named - almost entirely irrelevant as far as arrangements are concerned.
Nevertheless, no one should let these shortcomings serve as an excuse for not luxuriating in Mie Miki's magnificent musicality and the unique sonorities of the beautifully passionate instrument at her command.
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