Perpetual Motion

Béla Fleck

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Perpetual Motion Review

by Zac Johnson

Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck has certainly broken more boundaries than any other picker in recent memory, from his early days performing bluegrass-inspired folk compositions on Rounder in the late '70s to his quirky jazz freak-outs with the Flecktones throughout the '90s. In late 2001, this peculiar innovator released an album of banjo interpretations of classical works by Bach, Chopin, and Scarlatti. Before classical purists roll their eyes, they must remember that the banjo hasn't always been seen as the instrument of choice of backwoods musicians in the Appalachian mountains, but as recently as the 1940s was used as a primary rhythm instrument in all manner of parlor music. That being said, Perpetual Motion is a bright and unique take on several well-known classical pieces (Moonlight Sonata, Bach's Cello Suite No. 1) as well as a number of interpretations of Bach's two-part and three-part inventions. These light and brief inventions act as buffers between the longer, more dramatic pieces, but end up serving as some of the highlights of the album. With Fleck often accompanied by Evelyn Glennie on marimba and Appalachia Waltz musicians Joshua Bell and Edgar Meyer on violin and bass, these short, delicate pieces weave in and out of the album, proving that the banjo can be seen in a different light altogether. Fleck's picking is uniquely unparalleled in that he can so easily dip his feet into so many different genres with an instrument that is so quickly pigeonholed. The album drifts easily into the background, which is not necessarily a detraction but, knowing the fire that Fleck can unleash from his fingertips, it would have been nice to have a few more impassioned numbers on the album. The closest the ensemble comes to really making some noise is the final track, Paganini's Moto Perpetuo (arranged in a bluegrass style), which is not necessarily more forceful, but is certainly faster and louder.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Béla Fleck feat: Chris Thile SpotifyAmazon
2 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Children's Corner, suite for piano (or orchestra), L. 113
3 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
4 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
5 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
6 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
7 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
8 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Souvenir d'un lieu cher, for violin & piano (or orchestra), Op. 42
9 Béla Fleck feat: Edgar Meyer SpotifyAmazon
Studies (5) for piano, Anh. 1a/1
10 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007
11 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
12 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
13 Béla Fleck feat: Edgar Meyer SpotifyAmazon
14 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
15 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor ("Moonlight"), Op. 27/2
16 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
17 Béla Fleck feat: Evelyn Glennie SpotifyAmazon
18 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
19 Béla Fleck SpotifyAmazon
Moto perpetuo, for violin & guitar (or orchestra) in C major, Op. 11, MS 72
20 Béla Fleck feat: Bryan Sutton SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick