The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

My Work­ing Class Hero Iiro Ran­tala ACT/Planet

★★★★ With his latest solo tour de force, Fin­nish mae­stro Iiro Ran­tala adds 1960s pop to an im­pres­sive cat­a­logue of pi­ano record­ings that in­cludes in­ter­pre­ta­tions of jazz, clas­si­cal, tango and folk stan­dards. As the ti­tle sug­gests, the pi­anist cov­ers a genre great, John Win­ston Len­non. Not that Len­non’s songs — a hand­ful com­posed with his ac­com­plices-in-rhyme Paul McCart­ney and Yoko Ono — are all im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fi­able. Ran­tala has turned some fa­mous pieces on their head, to an ex­tent that may leave non-jazz ap­pre­ci­a­tors scratch­ing their head. Ex­ploit­ing the tonal ex­pres­sion range of a Stein­way grand pi­ano, the Finn trans­forms some of Len­non’s best-loved works while ex­plor­ing struc­ture and tex­ture with bril­liant use of dy­nam­ics and vir­tu­osic key­board tech­nique. Ran­tala em­ploys a re­peated chordal stab and a teaser fig­ure be­fore skirt­ing the fa­mil­iar strains of Nor­we­gian Wood, slip­ping in a short Ed­vard Grieg quote. The ti­tle track he tack­les with overt solemn­ness and a slow-burn­ing fuse. By con­trast, a gospel-tinged ren­di­tion of Happy Xmas, War is Over is pos­i­tively or­nate. Ran­tala cap­tures the ten­der­ness of Woman and the fren­zied essence of Help, al­beit with a de­cid­edly left-of-cen­tre ap­proach. Py­rotech­nics and poignancy are un­likely but com­pat­i­ble bed­fel­lows in the pi­anist’s take of another Bea­tles clas­sic, In My Life. While his ver­sion of All You Need is Love con­veys the or­ches­tral majesty of the orig­i­nal, his ver­sion of Imag­ine is sur­pris­ingly un­der­stated. Ran­tala may plumb in­tel­lec­tual depths with My Work­ing Class Hero, but he does so with con­sid­er­able imag­i­na­tion and hu­mour.

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