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William Dart: Mediterraneo is a harmless enough dalliance

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Mediterraneo (Virgin Classics). Photo / Supplied
Mediterraneo (Virgin Classics). Photo / Supplied

If one must explore Crossover Crescent, then Mediterraneo is a harmless enough dalliance.

Christina Pluhar has solid cred in Early Music circles, but her latest album, leading her group L'Arpeggiata from her theorbo, is sadly soft-sell.

"The sea does not separate cultures, it connects them," her liner notes tell us and 19 tracks spanning from Portugal to Turkey end up sounding as if they have all come from the same musical casserole.

The five vocalists, one per country, are easy enough on the ear, floating tunes over the various prettified and discreetly funked-up arrangements.

The honeyed tangle of guitar, harpsichord and psaltery predominates, pepped up by exotic solos on cornett, qanun, lyra and the like, innocuous enough to provide pleasant wallpaper for the ears whilst munching on tapas, gnocchi or dolma.

Ludovico Einaudi is described as an alt.classical pianist, yet he has enticed a perfectly respectable concert violinist, Daniel Hope, on to his new album, In a Time Lapse.

Overseas critics may claim that they hear cascades of emotion here; I hear nothing but the almost relentless tinkle of piano, doodling around in a no-man's land, halfway between Arvo Part and Richard Clayderman, sometimes underpinned with modish electronica.

I could imagine both these albums giving pleasure to less-jaded palates, but what audience do cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser expect with In2ition, their latest outing as the duo 2Cellos.

Any solid classical background these two Croatians have seems irrelevant when Elton John lauds them as the most exciting thing since Jimi Hendrix in the late 60s.

The English singer is one of numerous guests, rasping his way through Fleetwood Mac's Oh, Well - and repaid, or perhaps punished, when Sulic and Hauser take to Candle in the Wind molto lugubrioso.

A bit of campy attitude may have saved the day, but earnestness rules. Steve Vai's electric guitar flails noisily through Highway to Hell, Lang Lang pounds a sometimes distorted Steinway on Clocks and model/singer Sky Ferreira trails Cher's Bang Bang along the slow road to ennui.

Classic CDs

• Mediterraneo (Virgin Classics)
Rating: 3/5

• Ludovico Einaudi, In a Time Lapse (Deutsche Grammophon)
Rating: 2/5

• 2Cellos/In2ition (Sony)
Rating: 1/5

Verdict: The Slippery Path to Crossover Crescent, or the Perils of Classics on the Light Side

- NZ Herald

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