Preludes-Etudes-Album-200x179The electric guitar as the centerpiece of a classical album... this guitar slinger heroically tackles the classics plugged in and at full gallop!

Preludes and Etudes
Paul Bielatowicz
Mr.Bee Records
19 tracks / 62:01 minutes
The title pretty much says it all – here's a little over an hour of instrumental classical pieces performed by Paul Bielatowicz. What you also need to know is that this is the same Paul Bielatowicz that you might have heard speed-riffing with the Carl Palmer Band and on various Neal Morse projects. Bielatowicz' fingers navigate the fretboard at dazzling speed producing fiery, emotional solos, more often than not on prog albums -  but on this solo project Bielatowicz turns his attention to classical music.

On Preludes and Etudes, the guitarist covers Chopin, Bach, Paganini, Beethoven, Korsakov, Debussy, and others – you know, the regular bunch of guys. On this collection of songs, with many a familiar theme and a few that are a bit more obscure, Bielatowicz produces every sound you hear with the exception of four songs where he's assisted by Simon Fitzpatrick on bass. Even the very convincing piano parts on "The William Tell Overture: Finale," are painstakingly programmed note-by-note by Paul, who also created the orchestrations – certainly a challenge for a piece like "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - but it works!

Of course, the main reason we're interested is the unusual use of the electric guitar as the centerpiece of a classical album - and this guitar slinger heroically tackles the classics plugged in and at full gallop. Certainly, this will not be the album to give to your Uncle Steve, if said uncle is a lover of traditionally performed classical music - but what Bielatowicz lacks in subtlety he makes up for in sheer visceral energy. I suppose a piece like "Clair De Lune" might call for a softer touch but what Bielatowicz accomplishes is a unique meeting of electric rock guitar style and unmodified classical composition.

The sound quality could be better and the production is minimal but here you have some astounding examples of fingerwork and picking that frequently transcend the level of a simple exercise and reveal startling technique tackling time-honored music.

-Bert Saraco