Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra In E Flat Minor, Op. 1

Yngwie J. Malmsteen

Spitfire Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Yngwie Malmsteen is a classical musician trapped in the body of a rock & roll guitarist. I don't think anyone who's followed the Swedish guitar virtuoso's career would deny that - I don't think even Malmsteen would deny it. Yet as much as he seems to enjoy rock music, there's always been a part of Malmsteen which seemed to cry out to do an actual classical album.

In 1998, Malmsteen got his chance with Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra (I'm truncating the title) - yet, for some reason or another, this disc went all but unnoticed in America, as did quite the handful of Malmsteen's releases in the '90s. Eight of these albums have now been re-released, including Concerto Suite (many of them with more detailed cover art - the cover seen above is actually from the original release); we'll get to the other discs soon.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If there is one Malmsteen album that is a must-own, this is most definitely the one. I mean no slight against Malmsteen's forays into the world of heavy metal, nor do I wish to deny him the title of guitar god he's earned over the course of the past 16 years. But Malmsteen accurately re-creates what good baroque-style classical music was, with the modern twist of a screaming Stratocaster.

Oh, sure, this could have been a risky venture with the Czech Philharmonic. Malmsteen could have easily turned his volume up to 11 and drowned out the work of his fellow musicians, losing them in a flurry of hammerons and pulloffs. Instead, Malmsteen wisely allows his work to blend with the orchestra, not overpower it. What this allows for is the electric guitar to truly become a member of the orchestra, and everything comes together in a wonderful blend.

What Malmsteen also does is blends the world of electric and classical guitar (if he's not playing a classical at times, he sure fooled me) wonderfully. In selections like "Prelude To April" and "Toccatta," Malmsteen may get to some serious shredding, but he also shows how beautiful of a guitarist he can be. Even in the powerful selections like "Icarus Dream Fanfare," "Presto Vivace" and "Finale," Malmsteen makes you almost think you're listening to a plugged-in piece from Bach or Paganini. Imagine some people's surprise when they discover that the whole suite was written by Malmsteen - incredible!

Malmsteen's selection of the Czech Philharmonic is also inspired. I mean no disrespect to any symphony in America, but I just don't think they could have captured the nuances as well as a European collective (especially working with a European-born guitarist). This is simply a synthesis of talent that comes together to form one unique voice.

Classical music may never make a musician rich, with rare exception, and Malmsteen has most definitely left his mark as one of this generation's most talented rock guitarists. But Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra proves that Malmsteen is equally as skilled as a classical composer and musician. Here's hoping he continues to challenge himself by writing more works like this.

Rating: A

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Spitfire Records, and is used for informational purposes only.