Three new Classical Gypsy Music releases to match the summer heat.
Several years ago, my wife and I spent several delightful evenings having dinner in a restaurant by the Danube in Budapest, accompanied by the wonderful artistry of a fine gypsy music band. It was a great way to spend a summer evening, but more than that, it reminded me of what composers of the stature of Brahms and Liszt found to like about this music. Brahms celebrated gypsy music in his Hungarian Dances, as well as in other works such as the finale from his Piano Quartet in g minor. Liszt wrote a dozen Hungarian Rhapsodies that capture even more of the authentic gypsy style than Brahms did. In this new CD, the gypsy music group, Janoska Ensemble, demonstrates that gypsy musical traditions are still very much alive and for the most part, a joy to hear.
A typical gypsy music band is comprised of a violinist, a bassist and a cimbalom player. The Janoska Ensemble adds a violin and its keyboardist is a pianist instead of a cimbalonist. There are times in this recording when the piano becomes a little too aggressive at the expense of perfect balance, but for the most part enthusiasm, passion and virtuosity carry the day. Gypsy music is a unique blend of slow movements dripping with sentiment and faster sections that often start slowly and end up in a wild rush to the finish. There is plenty of both in these performances, with often breathtaking feats of virtuosity from the violinists. Great fun!
Deutsche Grammophon seems to be deliberately seeking artists with both a command of familiar and beloved classical repertoire and a special popular appeal, the formula in these new CDs being excellence of performance coupled with well-known music in fresh arrangements. Most of the freshness in these new CDs comes from the chosen instrument, an accordion. The accordion is not known as an instrument of choice by classical musicians, but played by the likes of Ksenija Sidorova and Richard Galliano respectively, it makes the perhaps overly familiar music of Bizet and Mozart sound newly-minted. All the arrangements, by the way, are done with great taste and respect for the original scores.
If you are looking for lighter musical fare to while away this summer’s unusually warm days and nights, you could do worse than to shelve your Bruckner and Mahler symphonies and get acquainted with the Janoska Ensemble, and accordionists Sidorova and Galliano.
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