Michael Copley (flutes); Dag Ingram (accordion)
DG 482 1785 (4 CDs)
TPT: 4 hours 55 minutes 16 seconds
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Far and away the most intriguing busker I’ve ever come across was in Cape Town when I was a child. He was an overweight man without arms, seated in a wheelchair with a wind-up gramophone and a tiny tin of needles on the ground just in front of him. His feet were bare.
Incredible as this must seem to those who have never experienced it, this remarkable figure used ten astonishingly versatile toes (of normal length) to extract a needle from the tin and insert it in the appropriate place in the gramophone arm. Then, with the 78rpm record whirling around on the turntable, he’d place the arm perfectly on the spinning shellac disc, an achievement invariably prompting applause and a mini-shower of coins from astonished onlookers.
More conventionally, Thomas Gould , a sensational young violinist, has busked in the London Underground. And Joshua Bell, another superb fiddler, also famously did a spot of busking in a Washington subway, an event that created headlines internationally.
Then there are the Cambridge Buskers, a duo who must surely go down as the most celebrated of all street musicians. Their LPs sold like hotcakes (still do, I understand) – and now they are on compact disc, a bumper 4CD pack.
How refreshing it is to listen to these fine musicians – and they are both very much at the top of their game whether on accordion, flute, recorder or crumhorn – sending up the classics in a most delightful, tongue-in-cheek way. This sort of thing is VERY difficult to bring off successfully – and it requires high artistry.
It is definitely not for beginners who would almost certainly discover how very easy it is to sound ham handed, earthbound, tasteless and crass in an initiative such as this.
But with the CB players wondrously on their musical toes, there’s not a hint of this. These two chaps know exactly what they are doing – and they do so beautifully in delightfully buoyant and engaging musicmaking. How easily this sort of musical sendup can sound tasteless and, worst of all, boring. No chance of that, I’m happy to say, with these two fellows.
Delightfully quirky – now sparking a chuckle, now a guffaw
It is only musicians who are thoroughly trained and experienced who can take on a challenge such as this – and make it work. As any famous movie comedian will say, it’s jolly hard to be funny The CB fellows, though, seem born to it with their zany expeditions through revered classics – anything from Flight (or might it have been Fight?) of the Valkyries to all of Beethoven ‘s nine symphonies crammed into 5 minutes by two chaps on a jolly romp through the classics. It’s an absolutely jolly wheeze, wouldn’t you say, by two musically madcap fellows?
It’s all jolly good fun as that light hearted wit Margaret Thatcher might have opined – and sure to give the apoplexy to those who believe that bringing humour to the classics borders on criminality.