Johann Sebastian Bach, Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor
ONDREJ: Originally composed for two violins, this work is tailor-made for us. It was a genuine jazz-meets-classic interpretation, probably the first since the legendary summit meeting between Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin. While I very closely follow the original, Roman improvises pretty much all the time. František dabbles with harmonies, some of them new. Julius takes over the basso continuo in all three movements, sometimes playing pizzicato, then bowing. The composition thrives on its groove: especially the third movement, which is in a jazzy 6/8 metre. Even the bass motif seems as though Bach is inviting the performers to improvise.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Adagio cantabile from the Sonata pathétique
JULIUS: Surely, this is one of the most beautiful melodies in all of classical music. It is usually only known in the original version for solo piano, and our idea was to perform it in our unique quartet formation. It begins with an improvised introduction on the piano, a kind of cadenza à la Franti; this is followed by the main theme, which is, however, played by the violins and varied by enriching it with more and more new secondary melodies and harmonies. It was in this way that the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique became a chamber music work.

Johannes Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 1
ONDREJ: Our vision was to bring out the “Hungarian” element more strongly in comparison with the probably one hundred versions of this famous dance and to present it even more authentically with Csárdás variations. Harmonic and melodic interventions define the piece. There are also new modulations to different keys. The piece sometimes sounds completely different, bearing the signature Janoska style.

František Janoska, Souvenir pour Elise (based on Beethoven’s Für Elise)
FRANTIŠEK: Almost everyone on this planet knows Für Elise. On this track I’ve written a new piece that is based on the world-famous motif. It pays tribute to what is probably Ludwig van Beethoven’s most famous piece. Here, both harmonically and rhythmically, but also in its style, a new musical structure offering ample room for cadenzas and improvisations has emerged above the well-known melodic foundation. Nevertheless, it always returns to the original motivic writing of this composition, which curiously was never given an opus number.

Roman Janoska, ¡Buenos días, Marco! For my youngest son
ROMAN: My compositions are always inspired by my children. I always try to capture some aspect of their character. In the case of my youngest son Marco, the tango is a perfect match. Marco is full of energy and loves Latin-American rhythms and so I have written several recently. He is delighted every time he hears the piece. And he always picks up an instrument. His musical instruments are his favourite toys. That makes me very happy.

Béla Bartók, Romanian Folk Dances in Janoska Style
FRANTIŠEK: In this Bartók arrangement, we incorporated new harmonies and themes that have decisively expanded the piece. In this version, each movement is a separate entity. We tried to blend in many timbres that are common in Romanian and Hungarian performance practice. We imitated the typical sounds with our own instruments. The piano tries its hand as a cymbal, sometimes also as an accordion. Violins and double bass are an integral part of this folklore anyway. It was also essential for us to incorporate new and traditional dances from Romania, such as the Horă, Geampara or Breaza. They all fit in perfectly and provide the necessary authenticity. Not many people know that Chick Corea was a big fan of Béla Bartók. Oddly enough, he never recorded a piece by Bartók. But he was strongly inspired by his harmonic writing. That’s why we have played part of the fourth movement in the spirit of Chick Corea –based on Bartók’s original composition, of course.

František Janoska, Bellissima Naomi! Lullaby for my daughter
FRANTIŠEK: In our ensemble we have a tradition of dedicating pieces to our children. After the birth of our daughter, Naomi, for many nights on end my wife Aida and I were unable to get more than a little bit of sleep. Naomi demanded a great deal of attention. And so it happened that I picked her up one night and went to the piano with her. Using my left hand I then spontaneously improvised a melody which was highly effective: Naomi fell asleep at once! Later, I arranged this number for the ensemble and added a quotation from Brahms’s cradle song, “Lullaby and goodnight”, at the end of the piece. Even today, Naomi, who is now four years old, falls asleep to this melody (and sometimes her daddy does, too).

Dave Brubeck, Blue Rondo à la Turk
ROMAN: We all love jazz, especially pieces where you can improvise a lot. Dave Brubeck is known for his uneven metres. For Blue Rondo à la Turk he chose a Balkan rhythm, that is, 9/8 time. That’s what we focussed on. The title probably pays homage to the Oriental passages in this piece, which became a jazz standard. We have included a large number of surprises in this famous composition.

Ondrej Janoska, Bagatelle pour Va-Le. For my two daughters Valentina and Leticia
ONDREJ: While I was composing this piece, I went to great lengths to express in music the strong links between me and my two daughters, Valentina and Leticia. This is the source of the title Bagatelle pour Va-Le. At the same time, I also wanted to include their characters in the composition. The main theme came to me in a dream. As soon as I got up, I wrote it down and tried it out on the violin. The middle section portrays the girls twirling, playing, dancing and jumping. It concludes with a short cadenza I wrote for myself. Everything small, fine, modest and like a dream flitting by, quite simply a: Bagatelle pour Va-Le…

Leonard Bernstein, Candide –Overture à la Janoska
JULIUS: Our version of Bernstein’s brilliant Candide overture offers the greatest conceivable contrast to the sensuousness of Bagatelle pour Va-Le. What a huge challenge! This virtuoso work is composed for a symphony orchestra with strings, woodwinds and brass and a large percussion group. We worked on this piece for a particularly long time in order to adapt it for our ensemble. Here, too, we have tried to integrate new timbres and invent suitable effects. We are also delighted with our reading of the overture to Candide.

František Janoska, 9 Symphonies in 9 Minutes. Paraphrase on Beethoven’s 9 Symphonies
FRANTIŠEK: The final piece is actually a world premiere. We have condensed Beethoven’s nine symphonies into a nine-minute medley: 9 Symphonies in 9 Minutes. And we are accurate right down to the second! The idea first came to us in Hegyeshalom, Hungary, at Julius’s country house (which he affectionately calls “Eldorado”), where we had gathered for a month and a half to prepare for this album. We listened to Beethoven and chose our favourite movements. I wrote a paraphrase so that as many facets of the Janoska style can be presented as possible. Each symphony movement is played in a different way: In the first symphony, the two violins predominate with virtuoso playing, a piano cadenza complements this and leads to his Second Symphony, which we play as simple jazz ballad. The Third Symphony is a combination of triplets and duplets, all based on a new, jazzy walking bass. The Fourth Symphony with Beethoven’s immortal theme in the second movement, played in a traditional classic way by Ondrej, is accompanied in jazz style by Roman: two worlds! The Fifth Symphony is fond of Latin style. In the Sixth Symphony, we find ourselves at a jazz club, where completely pure blues is being played, which fits perfectly with our “Szene am Bach” (Scene by the Brook) from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. After this bucolic scene a traditional “Mexican waltz” makes you want to get up and dance. The cheerful mood continues with the theme from the third movement of the Seventh Symphony. The second movement of the Eighth Symphony is performed as a tango. Finally, in the Ninth Symphony the double bass dominates. Julius introduces the theme of the “Ode to Joy” followed by the impassioned finale where each musician can shine in equal measure.