Frank Zappa - Francesco Zappa (1984)

OPUS I  
No. 1 1st Movement ANDANTE 3:28
2nd Movement ALLEGRO CON BRIO 1:27
No. 2 1st Movement ANDANTINO 2:14
2nd Movement MINUETTO GRAZIOSO 2:02
No. 3 1st Movement ANDANTINO 1:52
2nd Movement PRESTO 1:50
No. 4 1st Movement ANDANTE 2:20
2nd Movement ALLEGRO 3:02
No. 5 2nd Movement MINUETTO GRAZIOSO   2:26
No. 6 1st Movement LARGO 2:05
2nd Movement MINUET 2:01
OPUS IV  
No. 1 1st Movement ANDANTINO 2:42
2nd Movement ALLEGRO ASSAI 1:58
No. 2 2nd Movement ALLEGRO ASSAI 1:17
No. 3 1st Movement ANDANTE 2:22
2nd Movement TEMPO DI MINUETTO 1:58
No. 4 1st Movement MINUETTO 2:07
 
Total Time: 37 min, 43 sec

The third classical-oriented Zappa album in a row. Many people assume that Francesco Zappa is a fictional character that Frank invented as an excuse to write some very conventional chamber music. But apparently Frank really did have a long, lost, potential ancestor who was also a composer. After stumbling across his name in a music history book, Frank set out to find some scores of his music. Once located, these scores were fed into the synclavier and this album was the result. Other than choosing the synthesized sounds to use, Frank didn't really have much to do with this music. I think the album was just a novelty item that Zappa couldn't resist making, and an excuse to use his new toy (the synclavier).

The resulting music sounds a bit like Bach to me. Very stereotypical chamber music. The only unusual thing about it is the chiming, synthesized sounds used to produce it. I believe (this is strictly from memory, so might be wrong) that at one point Zappa's synclavier programmer/assistant posted to the FZ newsgroup and said that originally he had most of the scores worked out with samples of conventional instruments like violin, harpsichord, etc, and the result sounded like a real chamber group. Then Frank came in and changed all the samples to the electronic ones used on the final album. So the choice of the very artificial, digital, "chimey" sounding tones was intentional.

For some reason, this album evokes a Christmas music feel for me. Possibly because I got it as a Christmas gift, but I've seen other people say the same thing.

Many fans dismiss this album because Frank didn't actually write any of the music. Others dismiss it because it's a fairly primitive example of what the synclavier is capable of - Frank would put it to much better use on Jazz From Hell and especially Civilization, Phaze III. Still, I rather like this album and have dug it out to listen to around Christmas time every year since I got it. Certainly not the most essential disc in the Zappa collection, but not terrible either. If nothing else, it's worth it just to read the tongue-in-cheek liner notes.

Album Cover

Image of the Francesco Zappa album cover