“Symphony of Life’s” Sunny Adventure with Classical Music, Jazz and Prog-Rock

What do you get when you combine classical music, jazz, and progressive rock? The dynamic duo of Two Circles Music Co., a collaboration between Detroit Symphony Orchestra principal violist Alexander Mishnaevski and Toronto keyboard whiz Stuart Zaltz. Their debut album, The Symphony of Life, fuses diverse musical styles to describe a man’s journey through life.

One unique aspect of this album is Mishnaevski’s five-string electric viola (boasting the strings C, G, D, A, and E). The instrument was custom-made by John Jordan of Jordan music according to the measurements of the vintage 1765 Italian viola which Mishnaevski plays with the DSO.

Another distinctive feature of Symphony is its guest artists. Jo Partridge (guitarist with artists including Phil Collins, Roger Daltry, and Elton John) adds rock ‘n roll flair to several tracks.  Toronto-based jazz singer Saidah Baba Talibah provides soulful vocals to “Your Innocence”.

 Symphony is a sunny adventure of rich chords, jazzy grooves, and virtuosic melodies.  Mishnaevski and Zaltz draw inspiration from a variety of sources. Mishnaevski’s improv skills call back to jazz violinists Jean Luc Ponty and Stephane Grappelli; Zaltz’s harmonies and cheerful vibe echo 70s-80s groups such as Electric Light Orchestra, Pink Floyd, and Genesis.

“The First Thing” sets the joyful tone of the album with an Al Di Meola-flavored interplay between Zaltz and Partridge. Mishnaevski uses the full range of his viola with jaunty riffs in the lower ranges and soaring melodies in the stratosphere of the E string.

“Your Innocence” borrows the instrumentation of Johannes Brahms’ songs for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano. Saidah Baba Talibah’s husky vocals intertwine with Mishnaevski’s romantic melody over Zaltz’s sparse piano chords.

The pyrotechnics of “The Jester” resemble a jazzed-up classical encore piece. The piano cavorts with sardonic ostinato riffs, while the viola scampers up and down through rapid triplet rhythms.

“South of Home” is the most rock-oriented tune on the album. Mishnaevski uses a distortion effect to recreate the sound of an electric guitar as he jams with Jo Partridge. The track creates moments of exquisite dissonance by layering slow, descending glissandos.

“It’s Time to Go Home” brings the album to a mellow close with a pensive viola melody over tender piano chords and glowing keyboard harmonies.

The Symphony of Life is available at Two Circles’ website. Click here to purchase the album.

Track listing is as follows:

  1. The First Thing
  2. LFC
  3. Two Circles
  4. Your Innocence
  5. The Mystery Is Gone
  6. The Jester
  7. To What End
  8. The Trouble with Time
  9. Pyramid Ranch
  10. South of Home
  11. On the Aisle
  12. It’s Time to Go Home


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