World-renowned Janoska Ensemble brings fire to the stage

AUSTRIA / Janoska-BrŸder © Julia Wesely

On what will be their first official United States tour, the Janoska Ensemble will bring its world-renown style to the Community Arts Center stage, 220 W. Fourth St., with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

These four young Slovakians have kicked off a multi-city tour that will see them travel from New York and Miami to San Antonio and other major stops. They’ll perform a program based on their debut album, “Janoska Style,” released in the states March 10 by Deutsche Grammophon.

Founded in 2013 by Janoska brothers Ondrej, violinist; Frantisek, pianist; and Roman, violinist; along with their brother-in-law Julius Darvas, double bassist, the group has developed a style that explores a vast range of works, from “the classical repertoire to original composition and completely idiosyncratic arrangements informed by jazz, pop and world music.” The album, “Janoska Style,” represents the melting pot that is their native homeland of Vienna, a city that is rich in culture having been the residency of musical influences like Mozart and Beethoven.

Vienna, said Darvas, is very special to the foursome.

“We are all living there,” he said. “That is our start. Many cultures are there and the blend of all tradition of music and jazz, you have all styles. You can visit a concert, whichever kind you want, every night. In Vienna, the music is always a meeting point. Of course, you have the Vienna style of playing the music. It’s a special kind of music. All the big names, they grow up with this.”

The Janoska brothers represent six generations of music, while Darvas is a third-generation bassist. Each have been professionally trained and have a unique way of blending their family’s personal styles with traditional forms of music. When they decided to merge their individual talents in 2013, Darvas said it began with “wanting to make something.”

“We start from zero and it grows, grows, grows,” he said. “It was a natural thing that happened to us. Everybody includes his own opinions and it’s not just one person who makes the arrangement. The ensemble is really four people breathing together. It’s one harmonic thing, one unit.”

The ensemble was met with an immense amount of enthusiasm. Darvas believes this was because the audience knew they simply love to play music. The music, he said, comes from deep within their hearts and spirits.

“It’s very interesting to see that the audience gets an energy from us and us, too, from the audience,” Darvas said. “They say it’s a breath of fresh air on classical music and it’s something different. We also improvise at our concerts — every time (something new happens). It happens in the moment and that’s exciting.”

Described by critics in three words: groove, sing and drive, Darvas would agree that all three are present at each performance, from the groove of the bass, to the drive and energy on the stage and the creativity of making their own songs and arrangements of old pieces.

It is this improvisation that helps to meld the best of classical music, jazz, tango and even rap into a “blazing fusion of sound that will raise your pulse when it blows your mind with its fiery originality.” Audiences will experience a merge of classical and modern music that Grammy-winning Hollywood composer Lalo Shifrin called “inexhaustible.” The Salzburger Nachrichten wrote that the music is played with “stupendous musicality, racing along with virtuosity off the cuff, and the arrangements along are stunningly refined.” Their program will take a Johann Strauss waltz and mix in strains of czardas and Balkan folk tunes, while composing an original rumba that harkens back to Mozart. Among the selections: “Die Fledermaus Overture a la Janoksa,” which takes Strauss’s themes in a variety of stylistic directions, “Musette pour Fritz,” which honors Fritz Kreisler, using its basic structure to produce a minor-key musette with room to improvise and “Paganisoka,” which 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.

Tickets for Janoska Ensemble, which is being presented by the Williamsport Community Concert Association, are available at caclive.com or by calling 570-326-2424. For more information about the Janoska Ensemble, visit janoskaensemble.com.

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