Heavenly strings

In the alternate television universe that is the Public Broadcasting System, not only has it offered erudite music programming of all kinds throughout the years, it's also made stars of such popular crossover performers as Charlotte Church, Andrea Bocelli, André Rieu, Monica Mancini and Josh Groban.

"Infernal Violins"
10 p.m. today,
PBS Hawaii

Angele Dubeau and La Pieta would like to join that select group. The Montreal violinist and her all-female ensemble have made their reputation in the home country of Canada and in some major U.S. cities where they've toured. Now it's their time to try and conquer the American hinterlands through PBS.

The one-hour special "Infernal Violins" takes its inspiration from The Devil himself. But not to worry -- the color red is set aside in favor of a more classy and demure dark-staged and clothed approach, and the string instruments are not "infernal" sounding at all. The repertoire includes such familiar numbers as the "cancan" allegro in the overture of Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" and Paganini's "Caprice No. 24."

It's all in the tradition of audience-friendly, in-concert public TV specials guaranteed to get viewers to extricate some loose cash for pledge-drive contributions, or purchase the conveniently cross-promoted CD.

While the program excerpts provided on the Analekta album's bonus DVD is visual proof of Dubeau and La Pieta's appeal, "Infernal Violins" as a recording-studio souvenir of the TV special works by itself.

It's a well-programmed selection of classical and contemporary pieces, with some unusual inspired forays into rock (a darkly romantic rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," complete with a little interpolation of "Sympathy for the Devil") and film scoring (a low-key arrangement by Francois Dompierre of the interweaving main character themes found in Ennio Morricone's evocative and masterful score to Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western classic "Once Upon a Time in the West").

Dompierre also especially wrote for the ensemble two pieces included here: A lovely, sonorous work titled "The Devil's Beauties" and "Le Diable Matou," with Dubeau making her 1733 Stradivarius sound like the devilish cat of the title.

Ensemble pianist Louise-Andre Baril does the bulk of the arranging on this project, and her work on the dramatic "The Devil's Trill" by Giuseppe Tartini and the final movement of Luigi Boccherini's "Sinfonia Op. 12, No. 4" are particularly fine.

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