Fresh off an album of music by Bach, Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital returns with an album of 20th century music influenced by folk traditions. Much is made in the booklet about the boundary-crossing nature of the program, but really, aside from the fairly unusual but entirely appropriate music by Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze, it is a pretty standard collection of ethnic material. It stands out for several reasons, however, one of which is simply that it's been a while since the mandolin has been asked to do so many different things. Another is the arrangements, some of which are by Avital himself: they surround the mandolin with delicate little groups of strings and/or harp, accordion, clarinet, and percussion. The effect is to set off many of the quieter mandolin effects, all of which are very elegantly executed, quite clearly. Major credit is due to Deutsche Grammophon's engineers, working at the Siemens-Villa Konzertsaal studio in Berlin, but Avital himself contributes a kind of confidence that makes you forget you're listening to a mandolin playing all kinds of things it wasn't designed for. His version of Astor Piazzolla's Fuga y misterio provides fresh evidence of the adaptability of that composer's music to almost any medium, and really only the Siete canciones populares españolas of Falla don't quite make the transition successfully. A must for mandolin lovers.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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