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Imaginative, Improvisational, Inspired: Janoska Ensemble embarks on first US tour and debut CD
by Holly Coombs holly@ironcountytoday.com
Mar 17, 2017 | 208 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Janoska Ensemble will perform in Cedar City on March 31. Photo courtesy of Diane Blackman
The Janoska Ensemble will perform in Cedar City on March 31. Photo courtesy of Diane Blackman
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Many artists say music is in their blood. For the Janoska Ensemble, founded in 2013 by brothers Ondrej (Violinist), Frantisek (Pianist) and Roman (Violinist), together with their brother-in-law Julius Darvas (Double Bassist), the claim may literally be true.

As the sixth generation of a highly musical family, the Janoskas’ talent is embedded in their DNA. Along with third generation bassist Darvas, the ensemble has developed Janoska style, a profoundly personal vision of music that explores a vast range of works, from the classical repertoire to original compositions and completely idiosyncratic arrangements informed by jazz, pop and world music.

In March, the ensemble embarks on its first U.S. multi-city tour with stops in New York, Miami and San Antonio, among other areas including Cedar City on March 31 at the Heritage Center, according to a press release. They will perform a program based on their debut album “Janoska Style,” being released in the U.S. on March 10 by Deutsche Grammophon.

Janoska style steeped in classical musical since childhood, the ensemble draws on instrumental traditions passed down in the family from father to son. Yet it is unlikely that any earlier generation could so uniquely and fluidly combine the classical canon with the music of the present day. Each of the group’s members is an award-winning virtuoso in his own right; together they form a chamber Dream Team.

“They don’t hide their individual styles; they let them shine. As the work on their CD attests, they are equally comfortable riffing on Paganini with dueling violins playing the original score and an improvised jazz variation, taking a Johann Strauss waltz and mixing in strains of czardas and Balkan folk tunes or composing an original rumba that harkens back to Mozart,” according to the release.

In an interview with Darvas, he said the music is very important to their family.

“We are the 6th generation and started learning to play at age 4,” he said. “Everyone does his own part.”

Darvas said the group has had many great responses from Germany, Sweden, France and Italy.

He said their music is very interactive and gets the audience hands clapping and fingers snapping.

“It’s not classical, but very easy going like a pop concert,” Darvas said. “The music is so energizing and we will give the audience a great time.”

With the first time in the United States the group looks forward to introducing their music to a new audience, he said. Their interpretations trace each work back to its source of inspiration yet make each piece thoroughly modern. “Our challenge is to create something the original composer would be proud of,” Frantisek said, who does the arranging for the group.

“Artistic license is very important to us in all the pieces we play,” Roman said. “It allows us to continuously create new versions and that is what constitutes Janoska Style.”

On stage, they play with a contagious joy, eliciting a vociferous stand up and cheer response normally reserved for rock stars. In touring worldwide, including concerts in Toronto, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul as well as Munich and Vienna, they’ve won fans and accolades across the musical spectrum.

“As one of the most original groups of highly talented musicians, the Janoska Ensemble is unique in its interpretation of classical music, jazz, Latin and other genres,” Grammy-winning Hollywood composer Lalo Schifrin said. “The four musicians' inspiration is inexhaustible and they deserve all our attention and enthusiasm. They play with stupendous musicality, racing along with virtuosity virtually off the cuff, and the arrangements alone are stunningly refined.”

Among the selections on their CD and tour: “Die Fledermaus Overture à la Janoska,” which takes Strauss’s themes in a variety of stylistic directions. “Musette pour Fritz” honors Fritz Kreisler using its basic structure to produce a minor-key musette with room to improvise. “Paganinoska” imagines what Paganini might have written today and becomes a musical face-off between Ondrej performing the music as written and Roman, a consummate jazz violinist, with an extemporaneous response.

“Melodie for Melody,” composed for Roman’s daughter allows the violins to sing, and “Rumba for Amadeus” is Frantisek’s paean to his son and the man he’s named after…Amadeus Mozart. It uses the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor as the jumping off point for a thrilling rumba pulsing with Latin rhythms. “Adios Nonino,” written by Astor Piazzolla for his father, becomes an appropriate and emotional closing number for an ensemble in which family and music tradition are so closely entwined.

“The Janoska Ensemble has achieved something very special. The four musicians…have created their own unmistakable sound made up of great virtuosity, a literally inexhaustible wealth of musical ideas and bewitchingly mellow sonorities,” Andreas Großbauer, chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, said. “It is with apparent effortlessness that they blend these different styles and genres to produce a heart-warming and refreshing style. A true feast for the ears!”

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