Album Review

Noel Akchote (musical director), Stefan Winter (producer), & friends “Der Kastanienball (The Chestnut Ball): The Fall of Lucrezia Borgia” [Winter & Winter]

cujo   5/2/2006   A Library, CD

A ‘cabaret-opera? is what they’re calling this, and it’s a fair description. In episodic fashion, an array of players tell the story of Lucrezia Borgia, illegitimate daughter of the family whose ruthless politics in 16th century northern Italy came to define ‘Machiavellian? (her dad was ‘elected? Pope, she had 5 husbands, supposedly killed 3 of them… the list goes on). It’s in VII parts but with many more tracks. Part III, The Rape of the Virgin, is clearly the dramatic centerpiece of the work.

This particular setting of her story (and there are many, including: a Donizetti opera, which is quoted, and the 1949 Paulette Goddard vehicle Bride of Vengeance) makes her more of a victim than a player; witness her frail delivery of Over The Rainbow after being raped. Inbetween scenes, Machiavelli himself comes out and narrates in German, always over the same or similar (and some of the only original) music, a little guitar or accordion lament. ‘I’m not so sure that these tracks by themselves will be very interesting. The scenes themselves are just appropriated opera tunes (from Gesualdo, Donizetti, Offenbach, Wagner) or songs (Arlen, Spoliansky, Bach, Machaut, Stevie Wonder, Schiffer, Hatch, Schumann, Geldof, Freddie Mercury) in arrangements mostly by the pianist Fumio Yasuda, sung by the various characters: Lucrezia, her father the pope, her totally evil brother Cesare, the papal whore Giulia, and welcome appearances by Sadiq Bey and Theo Bleckmann lecturing us as Savonarola and Martin Luther. A few instrumentals are mixed in. Every once in a while Jim Thirlwell’s theremin and Steve Beresford’s electronics add a warm series of layers to the melee. A few selections track together, which is dramatically important, but makes it unfortunate if, for example, you want to listen to Noel Akchote’s opening guitar lullabye without then hearing Machiavelli bemoan in German for several minutes.

Despite the vicious subject matter, this release feels candy-coated, like a Cirque Du Soleil soundtrack (is this a W&W trademark? Those Uri Caine releases are also sickly sweet).

-Cujo, KFJC, May 2006

you heard it 32 times on kfjc! most recently:
Douglas Silker says

KFJC playlist 8/12/2007 at 06:05 for Cujo, last song played
ARTIST: Akchote, Noel and Various
TRACK: My rest is gone
ALBUM: Der Kastanienball: The Fall of Lucrezia Borgia

From your review, album doesn't sound all that appealing. But the above song was to die for! Fantastic and I don't understand German. Think I've figured out that the female vocalist and the musical director both were Noel Akchote? If that's correct, please email me back and just say "yes". Thanks for the song. dougsilker@aol.com


Thurston Hunger says

Noel Akchote is a man, a guitarist, runs (ran?) the Rectangle label...
sadly we deprive him of umlauts and accents here, but not accolades.

His "Lust Corner" release on Winter and Winter is a beauty. Sickly great ;>
(with Marc Ribot and Eugene Chadbourne on it too!!)

Hmmm, just saw that Akchote pays homage to a mighty guitarist
on another W&W release
Look for "Sonny II".

As if by coincidence, Cujo played Sharrock on the same show mentioned above

Man, I sure wish the Winters would send KFJC more stuff!! And I ain't
talking about Johnny and Edgar...

Glad that Doug dug the Borgia piece, words fail where music can only tread
Cujo did a pretty good job, check out the blurb at W&W...


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