Stars of St. Petersburg,
Russia's Most Beautiful Tunes
(ARC, 2012)

This instrumental folk music album is a lively mix of traditional Russian music. The songs are performed on a variety of uniquely Russian instruments such as the balalaika, gousli, rojok and jaleika, as well as other more widespread instruments such as the guitar and accordion.

Admittedly, this reviewer's experience with Russian folk music is limited at best. My first experience with the balalaika was Paul McCartney's famous words "Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out / Come and keep your comrade warm." But that is one of the great things about this album: it is very accessible. Anyone can appreciate the vibrant, upbeat mood of the songs. It is a great introduction to Russian folk music.

Most of the songs move along at a spritely pace, making you wish you knew the dance steps to go along with them. A few songs, such as "Akh T Berioza" and "Polianka," feature a happy, chirping bird-like instrument that bounces around the other instruments. "Kalinka" repeats its melody faster and faster, until it reaches a dizzying speed. In fact, many of the songs show off the skill of the musicians as they push themselves to play faster than you may think possible.

While the majority of the songs are energetic, there are a few more subdued songs that are quite lovely. "Riabinouchka" is a song that you could imagine sitting with your lover next to a lake in the evening sipping wine. The album ends with "Kolibelnaia" and "Vetchernii Zvon," which are peaceful enough to be lullabies.

Russia's Most Beautiful Tunes evokes all that is magical and joyous from its home country and makes a great addition to anyone's world music library.

music review by
Patrick Derksen

11 August 2012

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