Vitamin String Quartet

The String Quartet Tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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There are two distinct ways of approaching classical instrumental versions of rock music. The most common is the big band technique: arranging the music for the largest possible orchestra and recording with the biggest sound imaginable. Less frequently utilized, but almost always more interesting and enduring, are the smaller scale re-thinkings of the music; taking it apart and rebuilding it with the notion that less can be more. The String Quartet Tribute To Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young fits into this second category, with Da Capo Chamber Players taking the core of the CSNY repertoire (and a few solo pieces by the members) and revoicing them for violin, viola, cello, and bass; usually keeping the same or similar tempos. It's amazing well how the violin, viola, and cello emulate the four voices of the group members, not to mention the timbres of their acoustic and electric guitars, all the while re-constructing them in their own terms. Additionally, this album is more successful in general terms than many of the other releases in this series, largely because the repertoire involved is so widely familiar: next to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Simon & Garfunkel, this may be the most accessible body of songs associated with the 1960s that one could draw upon -- one needn't know a great deal about CSNY, or even own any of their records, to recognize "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" or "Marrakesh Express." The latter is the most unusual track here: it's a chamber music Arabesque that is most easily recognizable through its tempo, the players bringing out undertones in the original piece that are usually lost between the singing and the playing. The group hasn't only chosen the melodic end of the group's repertoire, reaching out to "Ohio" and "Wooden Ships"; the former track is no less haunting, and only slightly less ominous, when heard in this form, sans lyrics, and the cello, violin and viola do an astonishingly good job of supplanting the electric guitars. The last group work represented here, "Helpless," is also striking for its mix of a mournful main section (the violin subbing for Neil Young's vocals) and a brief, almost swing-style interlude. The disc closes with "Love And Disillusion," an original composition by conductor/arranger Jim McMillen that, amazingly, slots in very neatly amid the CSNY repertoire and gives the players a chance to show off their playing, both solo and as an ensemble, and once more to a startlingly appealing effect.

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