Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Ensemble musikFabrik: a Tribute to Frank Zappa at The Usher Hall, reviewed by Kenneth Walton
Frank Zappa was one of the earliest influential crossover composers/ performers, whose street cred in rock was equal to the respectability he held among the classical avant-garde.
The music of Edgar Varèse consumed his interest early on, particularly his fascination for the percussion piece Ionisation. That seminal work sat at the centre of last night’s tribute to Zappa by the German-based Ensemble musikFabrik, which also played on an arm’s-length link to John Cage.
But this programme never truly came alive until the second half. Prior to that, Cage’s Credo in US and Seven were a fascinating, if slightly numbing segue to the initial fired-up momentum of the opening Zappa numbers. The ensuing confusion, when everyone thought the interval had arrived and headed for the bar, left the first performance of Ionisation notionally adrift.
But the second half was a wow – the Ensemble’s shimmering repeat performance of the Varèse surpassed only by the biting, lugubrious funk of Zappa’s The Black Page (3 versions) and musikFabrik’s riotously theatrical arrangement of Echidna’s Arf (Of You) and Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing? That’s when Zappa’s spirit really came alive.
Originally published in The Scotsman