Mark Nadler & 48 Russians

MARK NADLER: Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians)

The brilliance of this new CD left me simply awe-struck after I finished listening to it.  By far the best new CD I’ve heard this year!

Maybe I was so stunned because of the low expectations that I had going into it.  The concept for the show is to start with  the Ira Gershwin / Kurt Weil song Tschaikowsky whose main joke is to name 48 Russian composers and build a show talking about those composers.  Doesn’t that seem like an extremely unpromising basis for an evening?

But rather than offering a pure history lesson, Nadler uses the premise to riff on themes including love, filial burdens, and friendship.  And while some expected songs like Stranger in Paradasie show up, he uses the themes to include a fascinating variety of the familiar (The Ugly Duckling with brilliant Tschaikowski interpolations, I Can’t Get Started), unfamiliar (particularly Adan Guettel’s haunting Icarus which Ron described as a male Defying Gravity) and stupefying. (When was the last time you heard Next from Pacific Overtures in a cabaret?).

Not only is the piece beautifully conceived and written, it is performed with passion, flair, and bonhomie.  A quote I loved in the show occurs when Nadler is talking about the vagaries of lasting fame, he says, “Fame is like evolution; it’s the mutants who survive.”  Moreover, in addition to talking and singing, Nadler accompanies himself with brilliant piano work.

This CD to me represents why one cannot pre-judge an artistic idea, no matter how ludicrous it may appear at first blush, until one sees what the artist actually does with it.  On the other side of the coin, I think making a vision clear to an audience is the job of an artist.  And when there’s a greater risk, it produces a greater reward.

Here are the tracks:

1 Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians)
2 How Does He Memorize That
3 Too Good For The Average Man
4 Rimsky-Korsakov, His Students And We Who Didn’t Fit In
5 The Ugly Duckling
6 I Concentrate On You
7 Why Romeo And Juliet Are Nuts
8 It’s Only A Broken Heart
9 The Five, AKA The Mighty Handful
10 I’m A Stranger Here Myself
11 Type ‘A’ Personality
12 I Can’t Get Started
13 Friends, Fathers And Sons
14 Icarus
15 The Burden Of Legacy
16 Very Soft Shoes
17 Stalin’s Edict And The Expatriates
18 Homeward
19 Tschaikowsky Inaugurantes Carnegie Hall
20 Manhattan Blue
21 Please Don’t Forget
22 Next
23 So Now That We’ve Been Through All That
24 Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians) – Finale
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