The 5 Browns
What do you get when a quintet of clean-cut, piano-playing siblings from Utah enter New York's Juilliard School? A recording contract, naturally, but also an abundance of exuberant and accomplished music making. The 5 Browns -- currently aged 19 to 25 -- stand to appeal to a broad audience with this debut album, thanks to their youth and enthusiasm. Their performance style is in the classical virtuoso tradition, as is their choice of repertoire, which comprises such pops-concert favorites as Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" and Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story dances, performed by the whole family in new transcriptions for piano quintet. It's tremendous fun, with 50 fingers producing an overwhelming quantity of energy and sheer sound. Paul Dukas's Sorcerer's Apprentice -- familiar from Mickey Mouse's battle with the magically replicating brooms in Fantasia -- makes a particularly appropriate selection for the team, as the menacing tune grows from nothing into a monumental musical army. The Browns wisely avoid tiring the ear by also including several solo and duet numbers, showcasing their individual talents and personalities. The oldest siblings, sisters Desirae and Deondra, are a dazzling piano duo team; their subtly shaded performance of Ravel's La Valse is perhaps the most impressive track here. Gregory reveals himself as a full-blooded Romantic in a Rachmaninoff "Elégie," while Melody shows a playful spirit in Debussy's L'Isle joyeuse. Ryan, the youngest, sounds as mature as his elders in a compelling performance of the program's most serious work, Prokofiev's Third Sonata. If all this music isn't enough, you can flip the CD over, put it in your DVD player, and see the siblings in action in a pair of video clips. Taken individually or together, the Browns transcend their novelty value through the force of their charisma and their phenomenal collective talents.