Jacques Loussier: Theme and Variations on Beethoven's Allegretto from Symphony No. 7

Jacques Loussier

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Jacques Loussier: Theme and Variations on Beethoven's Allegretto from Symphony No. 7 Review

by Lindsay Planer

French musical savant Jacques Loussier boasts an illustrious background that includes admittance to the prestigious Parisian Conservatoire National de Musique while still a teenager. His interests in rock -- counting Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Lords of the New Church's Method to Our Madness -- as well as jazz have prevented the artist from being categorized by style or genre. Released in 2003, Allegretto from Symphony No. 7, Theme and Variations features Loussier (piano) in a trifecta alongside Ben Dunoyer de Segonzac (bass) and André Arpino (drums) interpreting ten variations on the Allegretto portion of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. For those unfamiliar, the term Allegretto (translated as "rather fast") refers to the composition's tempo, encompassing a speed of less than 120 but exceeding 108 measures per minute. As he had done in prior outings that incorporated the respective works of Bach, Debussy, and Handel, among others, Loussier approaches the composition with an ear toward the third stream, blending classical pieces with a decidedly jazz orientation. For purists of either, there are the inevitable discrepancies in the trio's elucidations and reinventions. Less critical listeners will find much to enjoy, gaining a better understanding if not appreciation for both in the process. When removed from the traditional context, Symphony No. 7's inherent pacing and overall sentiment are inextricably transformed. This is not only in essence the purpose of the fusion, but also results in the melodies being taken to another level. As should be anticipated, several of the adaptations -- which are delineated chronologically ("Variation One," "Variation Two," etc.) -- are pulled off with alternate degrees of success. Some, like "Variation One," "Variation Four," "Variation Seven," and "Variation Nine" in particular, are notably liberated and swing with authority. Conversely, "Variation Three" and "Variation Five" seem arguably fettered and uncertain. With that in mind, seasoned enthusiasts as well as the nominally curious are encouraged to sample and personalize their own preferences of these bold and (at the very least) adventurous excursions.

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