Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chess in Concert

Chess in Concert
music by Benny Andersson, Tim Rice and Bjorn Ulvaeus [Compact Disc 782.14 Che]

Thrilling! Spectacular! Moving! Intriguing! Can you imagine that any of these could apply to a staged musical about the classic mental game of chess? Well they do! The original recording of this show, released in the mid-1980s and featuring the vocal talents of Elaine Paige, Murray Head and Tommy Korberg, is one of my favorite soundtracks, even though I've never seen an actual production of the musical. In 2008, a pair of concert-format performances of the songs from this show was given at the Royal Albert Hall, which featured multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban and Tony nominees Idina Menzel (Wicked) and Adam Pascal (RENT). This non-dramatized version of Chess in Concert was then shown on PBS and released as a double-disc CD set. Chess, as a story, features a political, emotional and strategic battle for supremacy between rival chess players over the course of two world-championship chess tournaments. Defections, both political and romantic, taint the pureness of the mental challenges of the game, and rivals find themselves uncertain of who and what they are playing for. The musical features some powerful songs, including "Quartet", "Budapest is Rising", "One Night in Bangkok", "Someone Else's Story", and my particular favorites, "Where I Want to Be" and "Nobody's Game". In this version, Groban is terrific, as expected, but I was particularly impressed by both Menzel and Pascal, who each have strong, flexible voices. My only complaint about this excellent album is that the recordings were live, and audience applause (though justified) reduces the emotional impact that silence would have had at the end of several tracks. Though both versions of this soundtrack are worth hearing, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try! -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available in original 1984 show and Selections from Chess (sheet music) formats.]

[ official Chess in Concert web site ]

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