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Gypsy Strings
Put out your Cigarettes and Dance (trad. arr. Summerhayes) [3:21]
Firefly (Summerhayes) [4:29]
Bulgarian Lament (trad. arr Summerhayes) [4:17]
Caravan (Summerhayes) [4:12]
The Lark (G. Dinicu, arr. Summerhayes) [3:06]
Five Naked Ladybirds (Summerhayes) [2:56]
Last Train to Barking (Summerhayes) [1:50]
Swifts in Flight (trad. arr Summerhayes) [2:38]
Copanitza (Summerhayes) [3:30]
Slower One (Summerhayes) [4:09]
Bessarabyanka (trad. arr Summerhayes) [5:08]
Polka (trad. arr Summerhayes) [1:52)
Hot Doina (Summerhayes) [44:53]
Adam Summerhayes, Emil Chakalov (violin); London Concertante
rec. 7-8 December 2005, Air Studios, Hampstead, London; 6-7 July 2006, Rockfield Studios, Herefordshire
CHANDOS CHAN 10453 [44:53]
Experience Classicsonline

More than once in the last couple of years I have had the good fortune to attend performances by the extraordinary band that trades under the name of ‘Zum’, a band which fuses Eastern European gypsy music with the Argentinian tango, elements from jazz and much else (salsa, klezmer, Irish fiddle music – you name it!). A leading spirit in that band (make sure that you get to a performance if you possibly can) is violinist Adam Summerhayes. Summerhayes is an accomplished classical violinist and on this present recording he is joined by Bulgarian Emil Chalakov, another classically trained violinist with a passion for gypsy fiddling. One of Summerhayes’s several musical hats is worn as leader of the London Concertante, and it is the twelve strings of that fine chamber orchestra which support the two soloists in this compelling and entertaining selection of thirteen numbers, some traditional, some originals. How much of what we hear is improvised I’m not sure – certainly some of the central sections of these interpretations are; but written and improvised fuse seamlessly here and the whole exercise has a refreshing sense of spontaneity to it.

Some of the pieces lie – more or less – within the boundaries of specific genres; ‘Last Train to Barking’, for example, is a kopanitsa, that is a Bulgarian dance in 11/16 often performed at weddings; ‘Hot Doina’ is, as the noun suggests, based on a familiar Romanian form but (as the adjective in turn suggests) is not given over to the kind of soft and melancholy mood that usually characterise the doina – this, rather, is altogether faster, more sensuous. The traditional is constantly being renovated here, but at a level far beyond the merely gimmicky or self indulgent. Most of the composing/arranging credits go to Summerhayes, and his is clearly the presiding spirit here. But he doesn’t hog the limelight; there’s an obvious joy in his collaboration with Chalakov and the Bulgarian gets his chances to take the foreground role – as in his wonderful playing on ‘The Lark’, full of passion, longing and sensuality.

This is a CD to raise the spirits, full of energy and commitment, richly expressive and inventive, but rooted in age-old traditions, traditions which Summerhayes re-presents in a fashion that is both respectful and original. Whether you already love the gipsy music of Bulgaria and Romania and are happy to see it reinterpreted in a distinctive and accomplished fashion in which the players are true to themselves as well as to their sources; or whether you value fine violin playing whatever the musical genre; either way this is a CD sure to give you lots of pleasure.

Glyn Pursglove


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