Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Koshka

Late yesterday, we decided to go to The Stables to hear Koshka. It was a bit of a gamble; two violins and guitar playing Russian gypsy music certainly isn't my default setting for music. However, earlier in the year we had pushed beyond our comfort zone when, on the strength of reviews, went to hear Moishe's Bagel. This was described as 'rip-roaring, foot-stomping, jazz-inflected klezmer and Balkan music' and our experience proved to be one of the highlights of the year.

So, were we disappointed? No!

BBC Scotland sum them up, 'The charming Lev Atlas, fiery Oleg Ponomarev and Nigel Clarke are all virtuosi; the violins agile and by turns soaring and brooding, the guitar astoundingly fluent with a plectrum on nylon strings. Gypsy jazz, achingly beautiful Russian airs, cafe-style music, and some pieces in homage to the Hot Club style of Grapelli and Reinhardt. In the wrong hands, playing like that can degenerate into a flash showcase for virtuosity,but all three have their hearts in the music, and while their copious abilities are necessary to play their material, they never overshadow the communication.' 

What was captivating about the evening was the variety that they managed to engender. This could have been seriously monotonous. But masterfully they kept you with them with changes of musical style, seasonal stories, and humour, so that at the end of the evening they received one of the best receptions I've witnessed at The Stables, giving two encores. This was also largely due to the interplay of entirely different personalities. Lev, is a superb, obviously classically trained violin virtuoso, currently the principal viola in the Orchestra of Scottish Opera - a clean-cut, 'nice' guy. Oleg is an equally superb violin virtuoso, but with far more of a folk/jazz emphasis, delivered with charismatic flare - he cuts more of a romantic, Byronic character. And the guitarist, Nigel, is the glue, but so much more. Each was integral, but together they provided a classic case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.  

It was an enriching, enjoyable and highly unusual seasonal experience and if you live in Manchester, Stirling, or Otley, you still have a chance to hear them.

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