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As a guitarist inspired by Paganini, Bach, Albinoni,
and others, Yngwie Johan Malmsteen (1963 – ) clearly
has a fascination with the violin and a desire to achieve
similar results on a Fender Stratocaster. Therefore,
it’s only natural that Malmsteen would want to create
a work for electric guitar and orchestra. His
“Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in
E Flat Minor, Op. 1” is such a work, from the 1998
eponymous album.

Not long ago, I watched a 2001 live performance of
this piece in
Japan, with the New Japan Philharmonic
Orchestra. The 75-minute DVD had approximately
nine minutes of bonus features which included
Malmsteen’s answers to printed questions, as well as
“Evil Eye,” another one of his compositions. Released
in 2005 by the Eagle Eye label, this disc is worth
checking out, particularly for Malmsteen fans.

Although he believed this concert to be the peak of his
career at that time, I personally consider this “Concerto
Suite” to be a mixed success, at best. While he may have
composed all of the orchestral music himself with some
scoring assistance, and integrated his guitar playing
into the orchestral world, I found this composition to
be a vehicle to showcase his “shredding.” I felt that
the music was filled with the same, albeit still
beautiful, clichéd patterns of classical harmonies that
I’ve long associated with Malmsteen.

The concert began with “Black Star Overture,”
a purely orchestral work. In addition to the lengthy
“Concerto Suite,” which utilized a choir while still
employing the aforementioned clichéd harmonies,
other pieces such as “Blitzkrieg” and “Far Beyond
the Sun” from the 1984 “Rising Force” album, were
also performed. These tunes were “all of a piece,” with
few differences between them.

Nevertheless, I still have the utmost respect for
Malmsteen’s astonishing command of his instrument(s),
noting that he used an amplified acoustic guitar, as well
as his Stratocaster for a couple of movements of the
“Concerto Suite.” His jaw-dropping virtuosity is evident.
His classically inspired brand of “Power/Shred Metal”
has thrilled many fans, since his 1980’s rise to fame in
bands like Steeler and Alcatrazz, and before he formed
Rising Force in 1983 or 1984. A friend turned me on to
their first album, and I’d never heard anything like it.
Shortly thereafter, I saw Rising Force myself at the
Hollywood Palladium. However after a while, the
lightning-quick, perfect execution of scales and
arpeggios became wearisome, and sometimes I
wished he could slow down a bit!

But I digress. With regard to the DVD, the
orchestra played well enough, and Maestro Takemoto
Taizo did an admirable job of keeping things together.
As far as the recorded sound and balance were
concerned, I’ve read a Malmsteen interview in
Guitar Player that indicated certain things were “fixed”
for the DVD production.

I admire what Malmsteen attempted, and I’m also
glad that he considered this venture to be a great
success. As a showcase for his guitar virtuosity,
this DVD is quite good. As a showcase for his
compositional skills . . . well, watch it, and see for
yourself. I personally opt for his later outing with
Joe Satriani and Steve Vai which was part of a G3 show.
No complaints there!