Strings of Autumn fest offers some cultural crosses
Both jazz and world music musicians blend East with West
Posted: October 2, 2013
The Strings of Autumn festival continues with two events in the near future, one for jazz and one for world music. Both events offer a bit of an East-Meets-West sensibility. The festival continues to Nov. 9 at various venues.
The crossover section of the festival features Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer, who is joined by Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson and Jewish-Turkish percussionist Zohar Fresco.
Możdżer blends jazz with a bit of the romanticism of Chopin. Three of his CDs include his interpretations or impressions of Chopin. Another influence he cites is avant-garde jazz musician Krzysztof Komeda, and Możdżer also recorded a CD interpreting his music.
His various other credits include music for the 1992 film Damage, which he made along with Tomasz Stanek and the Warsaw Symphony. He has also composed several musicals and music for plays, and was named pianist of the year or musician of the year six times by Jazz Forum, the magazine of the International Jazz Federation. His current trio came first together in 2004 for an international festival in Warsaw.
When: Oct. 8 at 7:30
Where: Divadlo Hybernia
Tickets: 350-690 Kč
When: Oct. 10 at 7:30
Where: Prague Crossroads
Tickets: sold out/waiting list
About his idols Chopin and Komeda, he said that both were completely devoted to music. "Music was a spiritual and also intellectual endeavor for both of them. They represent completely different genres of music and extremely different techniques of composing," Możdżer said in interview provided by the Strings of Autumn festival. "Polish music is serious and deep, full of nostalgia and drama - just like Chopin and Komeda."
For the score to Damage, he said that composer Zbigniew Preisner allowed him free reign to improvise, and that he has worked with the same composer several times since then.
The rest of his trio also brings their own influences. Bassist Danielsson looks to rock and soul from the1960s, as well as classical chamber music and Scandinavian folklore. His credits include work with the Brecker Brothers, Mike Stern and John Scofield. Percussionist Fresco takes rhythms and instruments from Arabic music as well as westernized Jewish music. He has also played with Philip Glass, among others. The trio plays Oct. 8 at Divadlo Hybernia.
The cross-cultural idea takes off in the next concert, called Orient-Occident 1200-1700, led by artistic director Jordi Savall. The evening is presented as a dialogue of Ottoman, Armenian, Arabic-Andalusian, Sephardic and Christian music from medieval Spain and the Mediterranean region. While religious and political differences existed then as they do now, the one realm where some understanding could be reached was often music. Each side could contribute something and set rivalries aside.
Savall says that in Spain, there was a sense of cultures working together, but historically it ended in 1492. "My vision was to rebuild a bridge connecting our various views on life. And that bridge is music, because music is still today, as it was in times past, the only possible tie via which something of the kind can be accomplished and through which we can achieve understanding," he said in a furnished interview.
He added that many of the atypical instruments used in the performance have a long history. "In a way these musical instruments allow us to grasp the soul of these cultures," he said. Orient-Occident 1200-1700 is Oct. 10 at Prague Crossroads, a former church that was at one time used by the Templars, an order involved in the Crusades.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at