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Crossover pianist Maksim, born Maksim Mrvica in Croatia, creates big pop versions of classical pieces. The arrangements come from various places, although the original pieces on this album come from the pen of Maksim's manager, Tonci Huljic, who has also worked with the hit British-Australian quartet Bond. Maksim doesn't exactly stick closer to the classics than Bond does; listeners uncomfortable with meetings between classical melodies and rock sonics should steer clear of this. However, he does create music recognizably rooted in its sources. There are actually fewer electronics in the music than it might seem at first listen; the remixes included on a bonus disc move into electronica territory, but the main disc consists of big, splashy piano-and-strings arrangements that Oscar Levant might have recognized, amped up with percussion as befits today's high-pressure lifestyles. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but Maksim pulls his hybrid off quite successfully. The Dies Irae from Verdi's Requiem might not be the first thing you'd think of as appropriate to this kind of treatment, but Maksim's over-the-top version is infectious in the way that some of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's classical arrangements used to be. He balances operatic tunes against quieter, more intricate music and against Huljic's more restrained originals, and the essential details of the music -- sample the "Hall of the Mountain King" from Grieg's Peer Gynt, track 5 -- are never steamrollered by the rhythm. The end result is that classical listeners may or may not like this disc, but it isn't boring, and it gives a good idea of what has brought this young Croat international popularity.

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