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Fiona Pears - Fire & Light

FIRE & LIGHT
2008

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Classical < < < > > > Pop

Highlights: Sabre Dance, The Willow Tree, Whisper Waltz, Sounds of Spring, On A Branch, My Song For the Motherland

Not enough praise can be bestowed upon Fiona Pears for her fourth album Fire & Light. The New Zealander has gifted her audience with twelve original songs to submerge themselves into, all composed by the lady herself. Incredibly, she also arranged the whole album for orchestra, and not just any orchestra either, but The City of Prague Philharmonic (their Songs Without Words is a fine example of their crossover technique). None of the songs are run-of-the-mill, none of her performances are half-hearted and none of the arrangements are inappropriate. In short, Fire & Light is a phenomenal album.

One of the key winning elements of this album (on top of everything else) is how varied the pieces are in style and mood. Each track is distinctly different to the one before, adopting different cultural influences and a continuous alternation of tempo. The album kicks off with a resonating spiccato in 'Tangissimo' which seems to bear strong allusions to Yo-Yo Ma's 'Libertango'. As the title connotates it's Pears's tribute to the tango; she uses the traditional sounds of the style, combining violin with the guitar and a speedy drum beat. This falls nicely into the next track that originated from the Middle-East: Aram Khachaturian's 'Sabre Dance'. Vanessa-Mae recorded a notable arrangement of this back in 2004 for her Choreography album, but Pears's interpretation has a much faster pace, giving it a more authentic flavour.

We catch a breath for a serene performance of 'The Willow Tree'; a calming melody with moments of uplifting splendour. Pears also demonstrates great restraint in her encompassing arrangement of the piece, allowing the piano as well as her violin to take centre stage. There are no weak tracks on the album, but others that standout include the lulling 'Whisper Waltz' and 'Sounds of Spring' where the piano arrangement is reminiscent of Debussy's 'Clair de Lune'. The short but sincere 'My Song For the Motherland' is a subtle piece for her violin and the Scottish pipes, whilst the longest track, 'On A Branch', is a delicate soundscape that has an aching swirling motif scattered throughout the piece.

The violinist's role in classical crossover music has most often been attributed to electronic fusions and dance mixes of well known classics and catchy originals, moved prominently along by Vanessa-Mae and the string quartet, Bond. If this is what you find attractive about violin music, you should not expect much from Pears. Imbued with originality and respect, Pears offers up accessible music for the violin that's devoid of any electronic gimmicks. Her passion and her ability to create different sounds with the instrument gives her more than enough room to demonstrate the versatility of the violin to a willing audience. It is of little wonder that she sustains her own solo tours in her homeland and why she is in so much demand all around the world.

Track List
1. Tangissimo
2. Sabre Dance
3. The Willow Tree
4. The Piper's Son
5. Whisper Waltz
6. Fiesta Sun
7. House By the Harbour
8. Turkish Fantasie
9. Hounds of Spring
10. I Found A New Baby
11. On A Branch
12. My Song For the Motherland
13. Harbour Light Magic
14. Saying Goodbye

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