“Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” by Zamfir

Zamfir gets virtually no respect, mostly for being an Easy Listening instrumentalist associated with the New Age Music genre, and who wound up being billed mononymously like Yanni. The fact that his music was initially popularized by infomercials probably didn’t help, nor did his propensity for performing the songs of people like Andrew Lloyd-Webber and John Denver who were already hated by most critics themselves. But what gets overlooked in all this scorn and dismissal based on his image is the quality of his actual music. His self-proclaimed title as “Master of the Panflute” is an exaggeration at best…there are much more sophisticated panflute virtuosos like Fanica Luca and Damian Draghici out there…but there is certainly nothing inherently illegitimate about the panflute as an instrument, and while Zamfir may not match the virtuosity of his aforementioned competitors, there’s no denying that he plays his chosen instrument quite well. And unlike Yanni, the New Age Music act he is most often lumped in with, he actually uses his instrument to play genuinely good music. Whereas Yanni generally plays his own worthless pseudo-classical compositions, Zamfir specializes mostly in either actual Classical melodies or songs by respectable Pop composers like Webber, and if you enjoy those artists there’s really no reason not to enjoy Zamfir, too. His rendition of this particular song, which I gather was his first experience playing Webber’s music, is certainly exceptionally pretty, featuring his high, haunting piping against a pillow-soft orchestral backdrop, and the exotic sound of his instrument is distinctive and evocative enough to keep it from descending completely into Muzak territory. It’s certainly music meant to soothe, but as someone who actually uses music to help himself fall asleep and sees that as just as legitimate a use for music as any other, I defy the idea that calming, soothing music is therefore somehow artistically worthless. Like I said, Zamfir’s image makes him seem easy to make fun of, but his actual music is quite respectable as Easy Listening/New Age Music goes, and he deserves much more respect than he generally gets.

Verdict: Good.

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