Getting in touch with your inner gypsy

Mark Goodman 2012 (002)

By Mark Goodman
Everyone has some inner-gypsy in them – the desire to sing passionate songs around a campfire and dance wildly into the night. Since this isn’t always possible on the South Shore, our program Gypsy Caravan on November 20 offers the next best thing.

The gypsies were a nomadic culture, originating in Northern India. As they migrated across Asia and into Europe they took root in Spain, Poland and Hungary, having a profound effect on the folk music of these countries. Many of the great composers were seduced by the virtuosity and fire of the gypsy musicians of the time. When they ventured into this style, the results were always exciting and seductive, a guilty pleasure for performers and listeners alike. Our South Shore Conservatory (SSC) program features music of Haydn, Brahms and Ravel, all of whom tried their hand at capturing the gypsy style.

Haydn’s Capriccio in G for piano, performed by piano faculty member Eugene Kaminsky, is based on the deeply profound Hungarian peasant song Acht Sauschneider mussen sein, which roughly translates to “it takes eight men to castrate a boar (!)”   You will also hear Haydn’s famous Gypsy Rondo performed by a talented student trio, Sarah Calme, violin, Francesca Corrado, cello, and Jennifer Boyd, piano. I can’t wait to hear the youthful energy these high school performers will bring to this joyful piece.

Brahms’s association with gypsy music began in 1850 when he met the refugee Hungarian violinist Ede Remenyi, with whom he toured Germany and Austria. Remenyi introduced Brahms to the wide range of Hungarian folk and gypsy music, and from that time on it permeated his music. Vocalist Beth MacLeod Largent and I will perform his Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs). Here are Beth’s thoughts on the piece:

”I first learned these fiery songs for my senior recital at NEC and have kept them in my rep over the years, as they just get better and better over time! I’m attracted to their passionate technical decrees – they expect the voice to be flexible, sustain long phrases, and yet the German language can make both of these things challenging. Now that I speak German, the language has more nuance and meaning to me than ever before.”

Maurice Ravel was fascinated by the exotic music of other cultures, a true cosmopolitan of the music world. His music incorporates elements of jazz, flamenco, and the Far East, so it is natural that he would be drawn to the gypsy style as well. In his Concert Rhapsody, Tzigane for violin and piano, he comes as close as anyone ever had to recreating the virtuosic improvisations of the gypsy violinists. A true tour de force, it will be performed by Aleksandra Labinska, violin and Eugene on piano.

Our concert concludes with Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1, one of his most beloved chamber music works. The piece is permeated by Hungarian flavors, but they come to the fore in the Finale, Rondo alla Zingarese (Rondo in the Gypsy Style).  As the music whips itself into frenzy, the wild passion of the old gypsy performers is vividly invoked. Our gypsy band includes Aleksandra on violin, Cassie Sulbaran, viola, Sassan Haghighi, cello, and myself on piano.

South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series presents Gypsy Caravan:  The Fire and Passion of Hungarian Style on Sunday, November 20 at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  This free performance is sponsored by The Harold and Avis Goldstein Trust.  Gypsy Caravan will also be presented at our Duxbury campus on Sunday, November 13 at 4 pm.  We hope you will hop on the caravan for this afternoon of thrilling music. Egeszsegere!

Pianist Mark Goodman has been with South Shore Conservatory since 1981.  He is a Hingham resident.

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