April 2005

The 5 Browns
Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody, and Ryan Brown, pianos
RCA 66007-2
Format: DualDisc
Released: 2005

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Image Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

The 5 Browns are not a musical organization born of UPS, but rather five exceptional siblings from the same musically talented family. Each is a keyboard virtuoso who won a scholarship to study at the Juilliard School of Music. They are all clean-cut, attractive young people, presenting an image that is in the same instant appealing and contemporary. I am sure that many will put down this five-piano disc as a circus stunt, but I found it entertaining and fun, an accessible and exhilarating journey into the world of classical music that might be attractive to young people who have never given concert music a tumble. You’ve heard of peer pressure. It’s nothing compared to peer attraction, which the Browns have times five.

Each player gets a solo spot. They all combine on special five-piano arrangements of Flight of the Bumblebee, Scenes from West Side Story, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and In The Hall of the Mountain King. All of the music will be found on the CD side of this two-sided DualDisc, and on the DVD side of it in multichannel and stereo. The DVD side also includes imaginatively shot, but only adequately reproduced, video performances of the Korsakov and Bernstein selections.

But here’s the rub. The specifications for DualDisc merely state that one side is CD and one DVD. Most producers use the DVD side for advanced-resolution DVD-Audio sound. But they don’t have to. And those at RCA did not. Given an ensemble that cries out for multichannel sound, that format is presented as compressed Dolby Digital and is far less sparkling, transparent, and refined than what the two-channel CD side offers. Back to the positive, the new DualDisc jewel case is thoroughly cool and classy.