Double bassist Julius Darvas of the Janoska Ensemble talks about the big B's


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Janoska Ensemble — The Big B’s (DG)

New Classical Tracks - Janoska Ensemble

Two violins, double bass and piano is an unusual combination for a classical quartet, but it’s the perfect combination for the Janoska Ensemble.

“It's a new window that we want to open for classical music,” double bassist Julius Darvas said about the ensemble’s sound. “We want to bring a new wave of air in classical music that includes great improvisation, with fantastic arrangements and virtuosity”

The other ensemble members are violinists Ondrej and Roman Janoska and pianist Frantisek Janoska. Darvas married their sister.

“When I met my wife, she told me that she has relatives in Bratislava,” Darvas said. “We went there, and the whole house was full of music. Somebody had left a double bass at her family’s home. I took the double bass, and we were jamming together. Their father liked it very much and said, ‘You have to marry her because we need a good bass player in the family.’”

Can you talk about how the ensemble respects Bach, Beethoven and Brahms?

“We realized they are the big B’s in classical historical music. We were searching for other composers with the letter B. We also found Bartók, Bernstein and Brubeck. We took our favorite compositions from them and made it Janoksa style.”

How is Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins tailor-made for the ensemble?

“We have the classical violin on one side, but the improvisatory jazz violin on the other. I'm playing the basso continuo, but sometimes some grooves. Frantisek accompanies the whole thing in a classical style combined with jazz and pop. Some new chords were added, which gave us a fantastic bassline to make new improvisations. Roman is playing the violin like a guitar. We also have flamenco technique in the piano.”

Do you write pieces in honor of your family members?

“Yes. It has become a tradition to write pieces for our family, usually for our children. It's a tribute to them. There are seven generations of musicians in the family. Ondrej Janoska’s first composition is dedicated to his two wonderful daughters, Valentina and Letizia. The piece is Bagatelle Pour Va-Le.”

How did you condense Beethoven’s nine symphonies into just nine minutes?

“We knew that we couldn't record all nine symphonies in this ensemble. The goal was to make it in nine minutes. We took one theme or melody from every symphony and arranged it for ourselves. The audience loves it. Some of them look at their watches during the concerts.”

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Janoska Ensemble — The Big B’s (Amazon)

Janoska Ensemble (official site)

349 episodes