Zappa: The Music of Francesco Zappa

By Benedict Sarnaker

Hi-Fi News & Record Review, September 1985

ZAPPA: The Music of Francesco Zappa
Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort / Zappa
EMI EJ 27 02561 digital dmm (EJ 27 02564)

Zappaleone is a fine (if pseudo) Italianate musical dish which will delight the palates of all those gourmets whose greatest musical delight of the last 20 years was Switched on Bach. It consists of two delicious, lightly filled slivers of black musical plastic containing (most) of the music of the eponymous Francesco Zappa (fl. 1763-88) whose first digital (or any other) recording in over 200 years this is. Arranged with great good humour (and a £35,000+ Synclavier) as Opera I and IV, it will delight the mock-Baroque buff. It will also upset him since some of the individual two-movement works are represented solely by their second (or first) movements! The Barking (from which Francesco came) Pumpkin (which was his favourite dish) Digital (which it indubitably is from source until the analogue output) Gratification (which depends on taste) Consort (which depends on imagination and a lot of help from digital, and other, multitracking) performs with splendid taste and an unerring sense of idiom.

The latter is in no small part to be credited to Francesco's descendant Frank(o) who 'directs' all the operations – especially the difficult task of restoring the original music which only survives in some obscure and paleographically problematic manuscripts. No praise can be too high (or low) for this stupendous achievement. How could one offer less than [A*:1*] (= excellent recording, excellent performance)