Kari Kriikku

Bizarre Bazaar

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Finnish clarinetist Kari Kriikku is one of the new Scandinavian virtuosi, with recordings of difficult standards by Weber and others to his credit. Here he takes an offbeat detour into the international traditions that have fascinated so many classical performers in recent decades: klezmer, tango, Portuguese fado, and Arabic music, among others. Bizarre Bazaar is something of a modern counterpart to the "encores" albums released by violinists in the old days, when a piece like Hora Staccato would enliven the end of a concert. The parallel is pretty close: Kriikku is not playing in authentic popular styles, but what you get in exchange is an intensified level of virtuosity in the solo part. The clarinet slides of klezmer music, say, are given a very athletic twist in Kriikku's playing. The arrangements, by a group of Kriikku's associates, feature orchestral accompaniment from the hot Tapiola Sinfonietta, which seems to be enjoying itself as much as Kriikku. These arrangments work reasonably well in the marvelously malleable music of Piazzolla; in something like the Dhikrayat of Muhammed al-Qasabgi (track 11) they depart considerably from the originals. But annotator Antti Häyrynen (notes are in Finnish and English) puts it this way: such performances are "nothing more than a nod acknowledging the original. Everything on this album has been heard through the ears of a Finnish clarinetist (Ostrobothnian, to be precise)." The end result is an album that offers a rather old-fashioned kind of fun, not studied postmodern pastiche. What you'll think of that depends on the outlook you bring to the music, but it's hard to argue that the project has been executed with anything less than perfect success.

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