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Firebird Suite Reviews continued
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AUDIO- The Equipment Authority November 1998 Classical Recordings.

Stravinsky: Firebird Suite: Other works by Debussy, Copland, Gershwin, Bartok, Shostakovich, Satie and Mingus.
Michael Perlowin, Pedal Steel guitar

By John Sunier

Sound: A, Performance: A+

If you're the sort of listener who runs for cover whenever instruments not native to the symphony orchestra are used to perform classical music, start running now. But if you are a musical libertarian, you should read on.Pedal steel guitar virtuoso Michael Perlowin begins this endeavor with the premise that his chosen instrument is misunderstood. He views the steel guitar as being "possibly the most interesting instrument ever invented....Technically, it's completely different from any other instrument and it defies all the rules of physics as to how instruments work." Although the pedal steel is usually identified with country and western music, Perlowin feels it is unduly confined to that genre. He cites limiting the piano to classical music and the saxophone to jazz as being equally ridiculous situations.

To counter this misunderstanding, Perlowin features the "versatile" steel guitar on such well known classical works as Aaron Copland's "Fanfare For The Common Man," Claude Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite," George Gershwin's "Prelude #2," Bela Bartok's "New Years Song #4," Debussy's "Le Petit Negre" and "The Maid With The Flaxen Hair," Eric Satie's "Gymnopdies #1," a Dimitri Shostakovich polka from "The Golden Age" ballet, and a jazz standard, Charles Mingus's "Good-by Pork Pie Hat."

"To realize these works, Perlowin skillfully arranged them and overdubbed a warehouse of string instruments. Pedal steel, Hawaiian (non pedal) steel, five string banjo, fretless electric bass, Guild Ashbory rubber string bass, double bass, mandolin, autoharp, and various acoustic and electric guitars. Most of the percussion was performed live by Perlowin and others. The notable exception to this was the Firebird Suite in which the percussion was sequenced on a computer. Electronic and tape effects were also used.

Open your ears though to any of these tracks, and you will be disabused of the idea that the pedal steel should remain solely in country music. When Performed on pedal steel, Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" now seems better suited to it's title. The full length "Prelude To The Afternoon of a Faun" is the CD's jaw dropper: The E-bow-- a battery powered, hand held unit that infinitely sustains a string instrument's note with it's pulsating magnetic field-- carries the melodic line and yields a sound reminiscent of the theramin.This CD is a classical kick in the pants. Don't miss it if you want to experience a whole different slant on classical or the steel guitar.

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