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Avi Avital, Between Worlds, review

01.31.14
Avi Avital
The Telegraph

In all my 30 years at the Telegraph I don’t think I have ever written about, or even listened to, a solo mandolin CD, but a few weeks before Christmas I happened to hear the Israeli player Avi Avital at London’s Kings Place, and was completely mesmerised.
 
On that occasion he was playing transcriptions of Bach concertos, the subject of his debut Deutsche Grammophon disc, released in 2012. Now he has come up with this fascinating programme that shows how broad his tastes are and how adaptable the mandolin can be. The Bach disc is well worth investigating for the sheer brilliance and lyrical subtlety of Avital’s playing. So, too, is this follow-up one, which includes many of the pieces that Avital has espoused to give a twist to his repertoire.
 
Boldly he bypasses the obvious: there is no Pelagia’s Song from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. But instead we have music by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, Villa-Lobos, Falla, Ernest Bloch, Dvor?ák and Bartók. All are presented in a new and scintillating guise. The famous aria from Villa-Lobos’s “Bachianas Brasileiras” No 5, here with the orchestral texture distilled down to a solo accordion and double bass, is one such haunting transformation.Vittorio Monti’s sizzling “Csárdás”, again with Richard Galliano’s accordion adding a pungent flavour of its own, is an instance where Avital has craftily reimagined the original violin part. 
With four Georgian miniatures by Tsintsadze, a traditional Bulgarian piece and a lovely Welsh folk song in which Avital joins the harpist Catrin Finch, this is a kaleidoscopic United Nations of a disc, played with finesse, energy, virtuoso fingerwork and a captivating heart.
 Read the rest of the review here