Two violins, a concert grand, a double-bass: four instruments are all the Janoska Ensemble needs to get any auditorium buzzing. The musicians take centre stage, elegant in dark suits as ever, and it takes them only a few bars to get moving and set off a musical firework display in their legendary Janoska Style. Their energy communicates itself to the audience straight away and reverberates back on to the stage as enthusiasm. Julius Darvas is cousin to the three brothers Ondrej, František and Roman Janoska. The man with the big double-bass emcees their programmes and this is how he describes that Janoska concert impact: “The mood in the audience is reflected 1:1 in how much we put into our playing; the feedback is particularly strong when we improvise. We give – we get – we give more – we take more – there’s no end to it. Then the energy really begins to circulate round the concert hall!”
This special energy has a name: it’s called Janoska Style. The award-winning programme of their eponymous debut album “Janoska Style” of 2016 has developed into the internationally recognized hallmark of the ensemble. That first “playlist” went gold in 2017, and for that very reason the musicians perform it with unfailing passion in concert, blending imaginative arrangements of internationally known classical music from the valleys of the Danube with jazz, pop, Latin, and traditional Balkan folk music. They arrange works by composers like Strauss, Massenet, Kreisler, Rachmaninov, Bizet, Waxman, Piazzolla, Sarasate and Paganini. Harmoniously incorporating them into the whole, they add suitably dedicated compositions of their own, establishing their credentials as masters of melody-making and at the same time showing that these four musicians truly are family.
With maximum virtuosity and consummate improvisational art, the Janoska Ensemble weave a colourful musical fabric that uniquely spans the centuries and relishes the comparisons and contrasts between countless musical cultures.
Where there are to be variations, there must first be themes. The Janoska Ensemble will never have any shortage of those. The four thoroughbred musicians draw their themes from rich stores of treasure: from all styles, lands and eras. Schooled in the classics, they travel unblinkered and unafraid through the musical universe, enriching their repertoire with gold-standard themes, old favourites and new surprises, from here, there and everywhere. The unifying synthesis of genres like classical, jazz, pop and the music of regional traditions is honed to perfection in their jointly crafted arrangements under the inimitable “Janoska Style” banner.
In its “Variations” programme, the Janoska Ensemble stages a new “Best-Of” among its wide range of styles along with its own compositions in breathtaking arrangements full of microsecond timing. Its tributes to the old masters are serious and flowing with elegance, its energy-packed creative eruptions and spontaneous improvisations alternate between virtuosity, humour and coolness. The common factor in all this is the music and the multiplicity of intensive feelings that it arouses in the audience and in the musicians themselves. This important synthesis is what the Janoska Ensemble is all about; it is the very reason why the famous four go on stage and give their all at each and every performance!
The Janoska Style contains everything that hallmarks the Janoska Ensemble as a top-quality team building on the sure foundation of proven classical principles for each of the four, years of practical experience from early childhood, the family bonds of shared music-making in the ensemble, uttermost technical perfection, unbounded joy in playing and their rediscovered art of free improvisation. Then there is the 250-year-old, deeply rooted and passionately felt musical tradition in the house of the three Janoska brothers, Ondrej, František and Roman, with their cousin Julius Darvas representing a third virtuoso double-bass generation as his contribution to the ensemble.
The “Variations” programme certainly deserves its subtitle “and Celebrations!” and its generous passages of improvisation ensure that it is constantly evolving. And there will be inspired new themes too to give the unique Janoska Ensemble wings and keep it prancing and dancing!
Janoskas go Hollywood
Hollywood! This hot-spot of film history is surrounded by an almost magical aura, proudly defying all the changes that have taken place in the medium of film. Hollywood – the name that summons up unforgettable films and their unattainable superstars – stands just as much for milestones in film music, which have lent great scenes the last word in emotion and helped make them immortal.
Great cinema – in one’s head, at least – is rolled out by the Janoska Ensemble with its illustrative programme, conceptually and artistically approximating the Hollywood phenomenon. Its title “Janoskas go Hollywood” sums it up exactly: the four musicians cross the Atlantic with a mixture of reverence and irony in search of great film composers. Their cineastic journey leads them into selected film sets, in which they and their instruments display ready-to-film “action”.
Their hallmark, the Janoska Style, provides the editing technique for their film programme. After all, the Janoska Ensemble has developed the creative cut-and-paste of works in various music styles to inimitable perfection. The compositions they have arranged for their hand-picked Hollywood programme bear great names from the Old and New World and come from a dizzyingly wide range of genres: Ennio Morricone, Johann Strauss, John Barry, Beethoven, Cole Porter, Max Steiner, John Williams, Carlos Gardel, Lalo Schifrin and Paganini. Some numbers are audibly spiced with Viennese music tradition, which in itself is a welcome reminder of the many Hollywood composers with Viennese roots. Mastermind behind the majority of these arrangements is František Janoska, the ensemble’s versatile pianist. But up on stage, playing live, these four instrumental stars prove that each piece is a joint venture. Their versions of Deborah’s Theme, Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible or John Williams’ Sabrina are an experience in 3D for the ears – when the lights go down in the hall and the word is: let the film music play!
There is often a grain of truth in a stereotype. That goes for the proverbial “troubled Russian soul”. The source of this description is immortalized in the rich literature of this vast land: dark, icy winters, endless landscapes, starkly contrasting modes of life and any amount of weighty history. All that finds its echo in the musical creations of Russian composers, who understand how to radiate melancholy in just a few bars. All the same, when the Janoska Ensemble takes its inspiration from the loveliest musical gems of the “Russian Soul”, there’s no risk of a frosty reception – on the contrary: there’s glowing musical passion in the air!
In the Janoska Ensemble’s “Russian Passion” programme, transcriptions and arrangements rub shoulders with imaginatively inspired new compositions, summoning up the well-known works of great names like Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov. These are often elegiac melodies with rich harmonies, irresistibly penetrating to the soul of the audience. Much is so rhythmically challenging, as ever, that the precise timing of the four musicians is tested from the very first bar to the last. Their “Russian Passion” is audibly apt terrain for the inimitable Janoska Style. It appears in the tender form of a Romance and it conjures up truly great cinema in the head, calling on the fourfold musical energy of the ensemble in each case. Painted on a large canvas, the Russian aural landscape would not be complete without the arrival in the programme of the energy-packed “Trans-Siberian Express”, which Béla Korény wrote specially for his good friends of the Ensemble.
Friends is the right word for the members of the Janoska Ensemble, too; they’re far more than “three brothers and a cousin”. Ondrej, František and Roman Janoska and their cousin Julius Darvas have been making music together since they were very young and each of them received a sound classical education. After that they went their separate ways, accumulating experience on the way, till in 2013 they came to the conclusion that they really wanted to play together and founded the Janoska Ensemble. Ever since, they have been developing themselves and the repertoire, venturing into one new field of music after another, flinging bridges across the chasms between. There are four continents with audiences regularly and eagerly asking for them. It goes without saying that they have appeared in Saint Petersburg and in Moscow. There are kindred souls everywhere, if it comes to that, and it is for these kindred spirits that they particularly like to make stupendous music. The Janoska Ensemble and its gargantuan Janoska Style – that is passion pure and simple!
The Janoska Ensemble’s “Blue Note” programme presents the four musicians (almost) entirely in the context of blue notes – those special tones that make the blues what they are: midway through a melody they fall on the ear as wistful, wry or actually pretty cool notes, which in classical music, with very few exceptions, are not to be found, indeed are not allowed. They lie between pure intervals, strike into the harmonies off-key, spreading blue moods – emotional states that vary from “wistfully beautiful” and “sad” to “really sad and sorry”.
But none of the concert programmes offered by the life-affirming Janoska Ensemble runs the risk of gloomy spells! In these arrangements, the four all-rounders prefer to bring out the strong musical timbres that their scattered blue notes create in well-known yet specially rearranged works. Taking pieces particularly suited for the purpose, they have compiled a sort of “blue suite” of familiar, tuneful pieces plus their own compositions. Needless to say, they stay true to the living legend of their own “Janoska Style”. That means that they select works from various musical genres, cultural spheres and historical eras, enriching them in their inimitable manner and melding them into new numbers. The three brothers Ondrej, František and Roman Janoska and their cousin Julius Darvas know how to do all that with musical sensitivity, utmost technical virtuosity and constant fresh supplies of joyful improvisation.
It can reasonably be assumed that the often highly respected composers of the original works would not only have consented to such musical synthesis but would have taken real delight in these arrangements.
For this special programme, the Janoska Ensemble plunges deep into the treasure-chest of classical music literature. These are carefully selected works by Vivaldi, Vitali, Bach and Handel, which the four musicians have taken into the Janoska music laboratory and subjected to their patented transformation and rejuvenation cure known as “Janoska Style”. Details of the recipes are top secret, but it is audible that they draw on fields of music such as jazz & pop and from the Balkan ethno tradition. So the Janoska Ensemble is gently nudging various musical worlds and their fans towards one another.
That comes straight over in the programme title “Baroque Groove”. At the same time, this blend of words spanning the centuries is a statement pure and simple that the Janoska Ensemble will take these 300-year-old pieces of music and really let them groove. With all due respect for Baroque composers like J.S. Bach, who often have their own groove, the four musicians add something of their own, the groove of the 21st century. They do so with elegant ease, another hallmark alongside their other capabilities that establishes the international uniqueness of the Janoska Ensemble.
Brothers Ondrej, František and Roman Janoska and their cousin Julius Darvas are an ensemble of “soloists who perform together”. Their playing technique and artistic sensitivity are unsurpassable. They each enjoyed the best possible education, while learning from childhood how to play and improvise together. In their case, then, the “icing on the cake” is a shared music-making full of verve and humour, spontaneous and creative and demonstrating moment by moment their palpable joy in the intuitive immediacy of making music together. Music for an audience that is charged with prime Janoska energy. A great feeling and a great groove.