Sunday, March 18, 2012
Primas Stefan and his Royal Tziganes
I have written a great deal on this blog about Steven Staryk, but I haven't written much about his musical alter ego, Primus Stefan, a Gypsy fiddler par excellence, who was one of the first (if not the first) "legit" violinists to bring traditional violin music from Eastern Europe to more Western ears by way of recordings. In order to become Primas Stefan, Staryk, who had learned to play traditional Eastern European music as a child in Toronto, had to seek out traditional musicians in post World War II Europe, which was no easy task.
Centaur has added two tracks to the second volume of its forthcoming multi-volume retrospective (this disc is CRC 3203, and it should be available soon). One piece is called "Gloomy Sunday," recorded by Primas Stefan in 1959, and the other is the middle section of Sarasate's Ziegeunerweisen.
This Ziegeunerweisen comes from two recordings: the outer parts come from a 1967 recording of the very familiar Sarasate piece (played exquisitely by Staryk and Douglas Gamley conducting the London Festival Orchestra), and the inner part, recorded in 1959 by Primus Stefan and his Royal Tziganes for the recording pictured above, is a traditional setting of one of the popular Gypsy melodies that Sarasate used in his piece.
Staryk served the concertmaster of both London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, so the "royal" nature of the Tziganes' name seems quite natural. Copies of the LP are still available, but this "mash up" on the Centaur CD is unique. The disc (Volume 2 of a 2-CD set) is also loaded with Kreisler and other treats. Volume 1 has concertos by Paganini, Beethoven, Mozart, Saint-Saens and Shostakovich.
Check Centaur's website from time to time and do a search for Staryk. These recordings will certainly be listed there soon. If you haven't heard the Beethoven or the "Every Violinist's Guide" that are there, I can recommend them both heartily.