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Frank Zappa Francesco Zappa album cover
2.62 | 151 ratings | 15 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1984

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. No.1 1st Movement ANDANTE (3:28)
2. 2nd Movement ALLEGRO CON BRIO (1:25)
3. No.2 1st Movement ANDANTINO (2:13)
4. 2nd Movement MINUETTO GRAZIOSO (2:02)
5. No.3 1st Movement ANDANTINO (1:50)
6. 2nd Movement PRESTO (1:48)
7. No.4 1st Movement ANDANTE (2:17)
8. 2nd Movement ALLEGRO (3:01)
9. No.5 2nd Movement MINUETTO GRAZIOSO (2:28)
10. No.6 1st Movement LARGO (2:06)
11. 2nd Movement MINUET (2:00)

1. No.1 1st Movement ANDANTINO (2:43)
2. 2nd Movement ALLEGRO ASSAI (2:00)
3. No.2 2nd Movement ALLEGRO ASSAI (1:18)
4. No.3 1st Movement ANDANTE (2:22)
5. 2nd Movement TEMPO DI MINUETTO (1:59)
6. No.4 1st Movement MINUETTO (2:09)

Total Time: 37:10

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / synclavier ("The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort"), producer

- David Ocker / synclavier programming

Releases information

Recording of works by 18th-century composer Francesco Zappa (fl. 1763-1788)

Artwork: Donald Roller Wilson

LP Barking Pumpkin Records ‎- ST-74202 (1984, US)

CD Barking Pumpkin Records ‎- D2 74202 (1992, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FRANK ZAPPA Francesco Zappa ratings distribution

(151 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(9%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (32%)
Poor. Only for completionists (17%)

FRANK ZAPPA Francesco Zappa reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
2 stars Presented here as an unearthing of music from the (fictitious) 18th century composer "Francesco ZAPPA", these keyboard works answer the musical question: What would Domenico Scarlatti have sounded like if he'd been given a Casiotone for Christmas? The transition from rock to rococo is likely to be too abrupt for any but the most dedicated ZAPPA fans. Previous "classical" forays from FRANK ZAPPA have incorporated elements of humor and iconoclasm that fans could relate to, but "Francesco ZAPPA" is by-the-books keyboard music, weird only insofar as it lacks any trace of weirdness. For my money, this is the dullest album in ZAPPAdom, a curio for the desperately curious. The fact is, any number of "real" classical composers -- Vivaldi, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Georg Handel -- have produced similar works with real merit. FRANK ZAPPA adds nothing to their existing body of work, content for the moment to replicate their talent on some small scale. The music, orchestrated by the composer, aided by Synclavier wrangler David Ocker and performed by the Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort (worth a chuckle), is no more than a light collection of piano pieces recorded on the Synclavier with all the warmth and charm of a block of ice. It's ironic that something this staid would represent a radical departure for the composer, but that's the enigmatic ZAPPA for you.
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album elevated more sympathetic than irritated emotions from me. Though FRANCESCO ZAPPA was not as great composer as VIVALDI or the other renaissance loonies, I believe there's still room in our earth for his work too. Nice gesture from Frank to record these unknown works, and the doggy in the cover is very funny. I got something?
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is another unique Zappa's album: this is chamber music played with electronic devices. Very symphonic, it is actually pure baroque classical music. Zappa said he remade some compositions from his ancestor Francesco Zappa with the only use of his Synclavier: it gives a rather Bach-esque compositions. All the songs sound alike, except the speed may vary. The Synclavier creates rather small bells-like sounds, very funny, charming, magic and relaxing. This record is for those who like pure classical music.
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars This is probably my least favorite Zappa album (along with Thing Fish) solely because it has no real value whatsoever, except to show you that Frank was always at work and expanding his horizons. Unfortunately, this album just doesn't come off well at all. It sounds more like music from a Nintendo RPG from 1989 rather than a real Frank Zappa album. But maybe the reason it doesn't sound anything at all like Frank Zappa is because Frank didn't actually write the pieces to the album. The pieces were written by the composer Francesco Zappa (it is unknown if the two were related, though), and though they show some creativity in terms of what notes are played, the synclavier doesn't really help make the album sound better, it actually makes it sound worse.

The album is split up into two "opuses", and they really are opuses. With fancy names before each of the movements such as ALLEGRO CON BRIO or ALLEGRO CON BRIO (to give it a more classical feel, visually), one may think that there is some redeemable value in this album. Personally, though, these tracks are mostly weak noodlings that go nowhere fast and they don't really show the strength of the synclavier (listen to Jazz from Hell or Civilization Phaze III if you want some incredible synclavier work). The second opus of the album, titled Opus IV, is a bit more interesting than the first opus of the album, but it still isn't a terribly great piece. Sure Francesco Zappa's arrangements and compositions are interesting, but they come off as cheesy and weak when put through the synclavier.

Overall, this album is one of the worst in the Zappa collection. It seems that in the mid 80s Zappa had become a totally independent musician, who would rather work by himself than with a group of individuals playing original material he wrote. Still, if you're a completionist, this is a somewhat interesting timepiece, that at the time seemed like a good idea, but in retrospect, the project should have stayed on the shelves. If you want interesting synclavier work, check out later albums from the 80s such as Jazz From Hell or Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention. 1/5.

Review by Neu!mann
2 stars Before 'Jazz From Hell', there was 'Baroque Music From Hell', a synthesized update by Frank Zappa of several long-lost sonatas by 18th century violoncello composer Francesco Zappa (yes: an actual person, but no relation, despite what Frank may have claimed in his autobiography). In the early 1980s the contemporary Zappa discovered these never- recorded trios gathering dust at the UC Berkeley music library, and promptly adapted them for the 'Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort', his tongue-in-cheek tag for the newest toy in his basement studio at the time, the Synclavier.

It was strictly a one-man novelty record, and hardly fresh even then. Prog keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman (not often compared to anyone like Frank Zappa) had covered identical ground in the song 'Cans and Brahms', from the 1972 YES album 'Fragile'. And Wendy (then Walter) Carlos had released the seminal 'Switched On Bach' in the dark ages of 1968, accomplishing with a primitive Moog Synthesizer exactly what Zappa would do with his Synclavier two decades later.

The startling coincidence of the twin Zappa names (and the fact that both were musicians: what are the odds?) is the most memorable aspect of the album. Otherwise it's doubtful Frank would have devoted himself to such an indulgent project. The irreverent cover art and notes show he didn't regard it very seriously: this wasn't, for example, the classical music equivalent of his 'Cruising With Ruben & the Jets' doo-wop homage.

But at the same time there's at least a certain integrity to the finished product. It may be nothing more than rinky-dink digital muzak, but the album can at least provide a pleasant background to any task requiring minimal brain work (like reading this review, for instance).

And what looks like another stingy two-star rating was assigned only by default. The album isn't exactly poor, but it isn't very good either: there's a reason Francesco Zappa's name is never mentioned in the same breath as Mozart, or even Antonio Salieri. And it's difficult to imagine diehard fans of Uncle Frank wanting to complete their Zappa collections with an album of music better suited to the toddler play area of the Korova Milk Bar.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This little oddity in Frank Zappa's catalog is different from any album the master ever made. It contains music the frank found, composed by a previously little known Italian composer from the 18th century by the name of Franceso Zappa. Despite the somewhat tongue in cheek biography in the liner notes, Francesco did exist (look him up).

The music, programmed on Frank's Synclavier, is quite similar to the mathematical composisions of Bach, and provide some nice background music. Frank chose to use mostly tuned percussive sounds for Opus I giving it a much more modern sound than the more traditional Opus IV.

I happen to like this type of music at times. But if you don't go for baroque, skip it.

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars Leave it to Frank Zappa to go out of his way to release an album because he clearly doesn't think it's very good. While in the Berkeley music archives, Frank stumbled upon the works of one Francesco Zappa, an extremely minor figure of the 18th century who was better regarded as a cellist than as a composer. More importantly, as a composer, his entire goal was to make money off of the noblemen to whom he would dedicate his work, which pretty much made him the opposite of Frank in terms of general "artistic philosophy." Well, given the similarity in name, and radical difference in style, it was pretty much inevitable that Frank would program a couple of Francesco's sonatas into his Synclavier and release it.

You know, I always get antsy when people (and there are many who do this) act as if classical is a genre that can do no wrong, and that if something is classical it must automatically be good. You know why classical has such a good reputation with so many of the masses? It's because history did an exceptionally good job of emphasizing the best and burying the rest. For every Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Mozart etc, there were hundreds of composers writing stuff like what makes up this album. Francesco Zappa, were he alive in the early 21st century, would probably have been part of the corporate songwriting team employed by the record companies who sign American Idol winners, and that's nowhere near a compliment. I admittedly bristle a lot when Zappa tries to be "difficult" in his classical numbers, but that doesn't mean I want to go to the opposite extreme, which is something like this. The two pieces that make up this album are just way too prissy and rote for me to take them seriously. I'd actually prefer it if it had turned out that Francesco didn't really exist, and that Frank was doing a sort of classical update of Cruising with Ruben and the Jets; that would have been worth an extra star.

Still, as spectacularly pointless as the album might be, it's very hard to hate the music here outright. It's fun to listen the synthesized noises and try to pick out what instrument would be playing which part as a track moves through its little classical exercises, and it's all at least vaguely pleasant. Heck, had I lived way back in the day, or had I decided to go into music theory / composition for some reason, I'd probably have been proud to write something like this. Of course, that just shows what a hack I'd have been, but that's another story. I give the album a high ** grade because it's a funny joke and because it's not offensive when listening to it, but to get a grade better than this I need to be impressed at least at SOME point, and that doesn't happen here. Only get this album if it's very cheap.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars One of many weird little releases in the discog of FRANK ZAPPA comes in the tribute form of FRANCESCO ZAPPA, who was a composer who lived from 1717 - 1803, born in Italy but mostly resided in the Netherlands. He was highly regarded as a virtuoso cellist in his day but spent most of life composing, organizing concerts and teaching music. Very little of his music was known and his name caught the attention of FRANK because of the ZAPPA part I would guess. It turns out there is no relation at all but after discovering his existence FRANK went to great lengths to dig up some of his works in order to bring them to digital life after 200 years. So obscure was his music that the only place it could be found was in the Mormon library and since none of his music had been published at this point, FRANK took the liberty to do that as well.

This is baroque music from beginning to end and it's entirely performed by The Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort and conducted by FRANK ZAPPA himself. Basically it's David Ocker playing synclavier for the 17 opuses that make up this album. The tracks mostly sound alike and if you ask me it sounds a lot like one of those Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter) "Switched On Bach" albums. FRANK ZAPPA did this obscure composer good by bringing his music to life after fading into oblivion. Actually I would have preferred that the music was more sophisticated with a full orchestra and some virtuoso cellist to interpret what FRANCESCO was most famous for.

I must say that this is indeed a pleasant little collection of baroque chamber music but this was one of the very last albums in the ZAPPA world that I have accumulated simply because it's not really a FRANK album at all but merely a tribute to a long lost musician from over 200 years ago. For that I salute FRANK for giving this man some deserved recognition but at the same time I understand why he didn't achieve the fame of his contemporaries like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and the like simply because he wasn't up to that level of greatness. Still it is fun to hear one of the lesser known artists of the era and it really makes me wonder how many of the lesser known artists I like now will be unknown in 200 years. A nice anomaly of an album but obviously not an essential FRANK release.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Yes it is true....Francesco Zappa was a real Baroque composer, not someone that Frank made up. However, he was not related to Frank in any way. Frank discovered some of his music in a Mormon archive library and decided to take it on himself to make Francesco's music available to the public. So, he performed some of his works on the synclavier and released it. It is more of a novelty item than anything else. Unless you are a lover of Baroque music, you will probably find this boring. I do love Classical music, but I find the music made in the baroque period quite boring for the most part, except for the music composed by the genius Bach. He was a genius because he understood that baroque music was for entertainment, but to make it right, it had to rely somewhat on certain rules, usually math based rules. Hence, why so many right-brain thinkers (accountants, mathematicians, logical thinkers) prefer baroque music out of all the classical styles. Creative thinkers (left brain thinkers) prefer the Romantic and Impressionistic eras. Baroque was the math music of the day, but I find it lacking in variety, dynamics, ingenuity, experimentalism (except for Bach), and so on. This album is very painful for me to listen to. Apparently, Francesco wasn't a person that stretched the boundaries of his type of music, because it sounds very typical. But I guess from what I have read, that he was popular in his day. Many baroque musicians were hired by royalty and such to perform and compose music for dances and etc. It is repetitive, but usually made up of short pieces that have a main melody repeated twice, a secondary melody based on the first repeated twice, then a repeat of the main melody sometimes. That was the usual pattern. The geniuses of this type of music expanded on it a lot by adding counter melody, variations on the theme, and many other techniques and they are the ones you usually hear about in the present day. The other issue with Baroque music is that a lot of it was written for the clavichord which was a precursor of the piano, and it was very difficult to change dynamics with that instrument, which is why the music all sounds one dimensional.

So, on this album, Frank uses an instrument that allows him to change some timbre and such, but this was early on in Frank's exploration of the instrument, so the music sounds very unemotional and clinical. Also, he still hadn't tapped into the sounds of the instrument or expanded his talent on it fully. That would come later. I wouldn't really recommend this album to anyone unless they were a completionist or someone that might be interested in baroque music, but only if they weren't too picky. There is better baroque music out there, even though I am not a big fan of it, I do know what it takes to make it better and more interesting. Francesco was not a major composer and Frank hadn't developed his talent for the instrument yet. For those reasons, I can only squeak a 2 star rating for this, leaving for collectors or fans, which I am that more than anything and which is the only reason why I own this on vinyl. Sorry Frank....2 stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Francesco Zappa" is an album release by US, California based artist Frank Zappa. The album was released through Barking Pumpkin Records in November 1984 and is sandwiched between "Them or Us" from October 1984 and "Thing-Fish" from December 1984.

"Francesco Zappa" is a rather unusual Zappa release, as it doesnīt feature a single piece of music composed by Zappa himself. The album instead features 17 pieces of classical chamber music composed by Italian composer Francesco Zappa (who was active from 1763 and 1788 and despite sharing sur-name with Frank Zappa, arenīt otherwise related). Francesco Zappa isnīt a particularly prolific classical composer in the eyes/ears of today, but in his time he was a highly regarded cellist known for his virtuosic skills on the instrument and his compositions were published and distributed throughout Europe. He spend most of his working life on The Hague's 18th-century music scene. Frank Zappa discovered the music of Francesco Zappa when David Ocker (copyist, synclavier programmer, and clarinetist) introduced Zappa to one of Francesco Zappaīs pieces, and Zappa soon after began a search for sheet music, which proved a difficult task, but he eventually was able to locate some sheet papers.

With the help of Ocker, he then programmed some of the Francesco Zappa pieces into his Synclavier synthesizer and thus we have the "Francesco Zappa" album. A through and through bizarre music experiment and probably not how Francesco Zappa would have imagined the first publication of his music would sound like (not that he could probably even image a publication since he died over 200 years ago). The compositions themselves are rather generic chamber music, influenced by the baroque period which had just ended (gradually faded around 1750). They are decent pieces of classical chamber music, but nothing out of the ordinary for the style, and performed by the Synclavier synthesizer the material becomes a somewhat odd listen. The music which was clearly intended to be played on organic classical music instruments, ends up sounding like plastique casio keyboard elevator muzak.

Iīm not sure why Frank Zappa found this music appealing or why he thought it was a good idea to spend time, money, and effort, getting these compositions released, but to my ears itīs probably the least interesting release in his entire discography. Iīd even listen to some of the lo-fi quality official bootlegs before listening to this one. Itīs not that itīs a horrible listening experience, but it leaves me indifferent and a 2 - 2.5 star (45%) rating isnīt all wrong.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Review #160 Once, I was talking with my oldest cousin and he asked me if I've ever heard Frank ZAPPA's "Francesco Zappa", he also told me it was one of the greatest records he had ever listened to, he had only listened to it once and he was intended to listen to it just once more in his entir ... (read more)

Report this review (#2649466) | Posted by Uruk_hai | Saturday, December 4, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think this album is funny and a little ironic. Loke to the cover. A dogg dressed in fancy clothes, with sun glasses... probably is Francesco Zappa, the lost italian baroc composer. And the classical piece played by Synclavier... maybe if was played by a string quarter and a piano it could soun ... (read more)

Report this review (#175116) | Posted by chaos8619 | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Ok, it really isn't a perfect album, but it is still interesting, because it collects the first Zappa works, and if you listen to it, it isn't so bad. It is a sort of modern classical music, and it could introduce you to the next orchestral Zappa works, like "The Perfect Stranger", or the fantas ... (read more)

Report this review (#138815) | Posted by paloz | Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars First of all let me set the record straight: Francesco Zappa was a REAL COMPOSER and he did compose the music on this album. If you don't believe me, check the New Grove Dictionary of music and musicians. If you just happen to have Vol 20 of the 1980 edition handy (what do you mean, you don't ... (read more)

Report this review (#29683) | Posted by The Mentalist | Wednesday, June 16, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Not very good, but then Frank didn't actually compose these little ditties, only arranged them on the synclavier. Even FZ couldn't make poor/very average music sound great. I never thought I would ever rate anything FZ was involved with as average, but this is it. Only buy if curious about the arra ... (read more)

Report this review (#29679) | Posted by | Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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