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The 5 Browns Debut Recording

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

They call themselves, appropriately, The 5 Browns. They are five piano-playing brothers and sisters from Utah, and they made history when they attended Juilliard at the same time. Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan Brown have made their first record, and our critic Tom Manoff has a review.

(Soundbite of "Flight of the Bumblebee")

TOM MANOFF reporting:

Five pianists playing five pianos is a lot of finger firepower. What does it sound like? Here are 50 fingers playing an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee."

(Soundbite of "Flight of the Bumblebee")

MANOFF: One glance at these good-looking kids, posed in glossy airbrushed splendor, makes clear that The 5 Browns are a publicist's dream. But does the musical experience match the hype? How about a five-piano arrangement of "West Side Story"?

(Soundbite of "West Side Story")

MANOFF: OK, this seems fun. But once I got over the novelty, it felt kind of clunky. Despite the fivefold finger snaps, there's no groove, an essential quality for Bernstein's street-smart score.

(Soundbite of "West Side Story")

MANOFF: On the other side of this CD, there's a DVD of the Browns performing. Although I got bored listening to them, watching them proved more interesting. These kids strike me as hardworking, talented musicians whose most endearing quality is their joy making music together.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: By the way, the recording includes solo performances also. And while I feel funny suggesting a favorite within the family, one of the Browns does stand out. By chance, her first name is Melody, and here she plays music by Ignaz Friedman.

(Soundbite of music)

MANOFF: There's certainly some good music-making on this recording, but music for five pianos will always be a novelty. So the long-term issue for these kids is musical growth, both as a group and as soloists. But having seen them, I'm interested in what happens next. For this disc, though, on a scale of one to 10, I give it a five.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: The group is called The 5 Browns. Our reviewer is Tom Manoff. You can hear a 5 Browns performance at our Web site, npr.org. And while you're there, check out some more new music. You can now download NPR's online music program, "All Songs Considered," as a podcast. Just click on `NPR podcasts' to learn how to subscribe.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Manoff
Composer and author Tom Manoff has been the classical music critic for NPR's All Things Considered since 1985.