The female answer to Nigel Kennedy, Anglo-Chinese violinist Vanessa-Mae was influential in making classical music accessible to a wider audience, thanks to an inventive spin on the genre self-described as violin techno-acoustic fusion. Armed with an electric violin, an array of pumping dance beats, and an eyebrow-raising image that was seen as sacrilegious by the stuffy classical purist brigade, she emerged in the mid-'90s with a sound that was as much influenced by the club scene as it was the concert halls, scoring several mainstream hit singles and albums in the process. Her first compilation, The Best of Vanessa-Mae, which cherry-picks the most popular 17 tracks from the 1995-2001 era of her career, proves that her revolutionary reputation is entirely justified. Ignoring her preteen release Violin and Kids' Classics, and her series of Tchaikovsky & Beethoven Violin Concertos, this EMI collection starts with breakthrough LP The Violin Player, and although Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor might not be the most radical of introductory classical pieces, its fusion with driving rock beats, hair metal guitars, and alluring spoken word flashes certainly is. It's a balancing act that she continued to pull off with ease on the likes of the shuffling electro rhythms of "Storm," a reworking of Summer - III. Presto from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and her hypnotic carnival-inspired take on Giuseppe Tartini's Devil's Trill Sonata, while the likes of "I'm A-Doun for Lack o' Johnnie" (an enchanting Celtic arrangement based on Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra Op. 46) and her beautifully emotive rendition of Nessun Dorma showed the critics that she was capable of performing the classics in a faithful but equally mesmerizing manner. But although her virtuoso violin skills are unquestionable, her singing abilities aren't so convincing, with misguided attempts at playing the pop diva on unnecessary dance-lite cover versions of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and It's a Beautiful Day's 1968 folk-pop classic "White Bird" showing up her unremarkable feathery light tones. But no one buys a Vanessa-Mae album for her vocal cords, and for the most part, this 2002 retrospective is a solid introduction to the masterful, high-energy, and passionate violin skills of one of classical pop's true pioneers.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien