Vanessa Mae's The Violin Player merges classical violin with pop/rock music and a soundtrack'esque feel. What results is a virtuoso violin performance that is more accessible than usual due to its catchy, memorable melodies, many of which at times possess an impressive sense of drama. Most interestingly, on occasions when the mood of the music gets adventuresome or spooky enough, the CD sounds remarkably like what one might expect from good Castlevania (Dracula) arrangements, particularly some of the pieces from "Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight".
I have a feeling the Castlevania reference is what has readers of this site most interested, so I'll divulge the details of that first. From the very beginning of the CD, the similarity to Castlevania music becomes apparent, with "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor". This arrangement of the classic Bach piece features one of the staple horror themes of popular culture, as pipe organs begin the piece then are echoed by Mae's violin. However, the Castlevania style kicks in about a minute into the piece, when the traditional classical style performance and arrangement end, and instead the violin performance becomes furiously fast, rock-style percussion keeps the tempo upbeat, and electric guitar chords accentuate the violin melody at nicely rocking moments. It's vintage Castlevania, but with longer and more elaborate arrangements, and superior instrumental quality thanks primarily to Mae's performance.
Fortunately the Castlevania similarity doesn't end there. The very next track, "Contradanza", continues with the combination of fast, exciting violin, rock percussion, and electric guitar highlighting. However, instead of the spookiness of "Toccata", we get an uplifting adventure-style theme. It's incredibly uplifting, in fact, making this track my personal favorite of the CD.
Probably the most Castlevania-like track of the CD is "Jazz Will Eat Itself". Like numerous pieces in Nocturne in the Moonlight, this track sacrifices the rocking intensity for a more relaxed - yet slightly haunting - mood. The resemblance to certain themes from Nocturne in remarkable, although it fades somewhat later in the track as a saxophone takes the spotlight.
There are some tracks where the Castlevania analogy falls by the wayside altogether and a totally different style is revealed. In "Classical Gas", the violin melody takes a slower, beautifully cascading form and the bass and lead guitar have a softer pop-rock style at first, rather than the hard-rocking power chords of the faster tracks. As the grand finale for the album, "Red Hot" offers an exciting violin melody crossed between classical and pop, with piano and a cool percussive electronic backdrop added to the mix.
Anyone who at all likes Castlevania music - and even those few unfamiliar with the series - should definitely give Vanessa Mae's The Violin Player a listen. (For those who specifically dislike Castlevania music, umm... what's wrong with you?) Not every track on the CD offers a high level of rocking energy, but even those milder tracks are almost always interesting. The album as a whole is a successful blend of genre and style very well suited to the soundtrack fan.