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Album Review

Fans of the Modern Mandolin Quartet will eagerly snap up Americana, the group's 2012 release on Dorian's Sono Luminus label and its first album since the Nutcracker Suite, which appeared in 2004. This lively collection offers sophisticated and clear-headed arrangements of string quartets by Antonin Dvorák and Philip Glass, as well as the Three Piano Preludes of George Gershwin, which are interspersed with shorter pieces of a strong American flavor, including the "Hoe-Down" from Aaron Copland's Rodeo, "Cool" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, the traditional folk song Shenandoah, a medley celebrating bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, and an Irish Roots Medley. The ensemble, which consists of two mandolins, mandola, and mandocello, matches the tunings and registers of a classical string quartet, so the Dvorák and Glass pieces make sense both musically and technically, though the adaptations of the Copland, Bernstein, and Gershwin selections involved more creativity. The mandolin's sound isn't for everybody, and because the whole program involves plucked and strummed music, without alleviation from other instruments, some listeners will find the CD is easier to appreciate in small doses. Even so, Americana is a tour de force, thanks to the Modern Mandolin Quartet's skill and artistry. The package contains two discs, one a conventional CD and the other a Blu-ray audio disc, providing two options for playback.

Biography

Formed: 1985

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

This ensemble was formed in the mid-'80s as the brainchild of Mike Marshall, an internationally acclaimed mandolin player best known for his work with David Grisman and Montreux. Marshall was looking for a way to bring respectability to an instrument primarily known for bluegrass and quaint folk tunes. Toward this end, he established a string-quartet-style group featuring the extended family of mandolin instruments. Marshall and Dana Rath play standard mandolins (which take the place of violins),...
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