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.


Anonymous said...

thank you! I'd heard this story about a Canadian classical violinist with a gypsy alter ego but couldn't remember his name. Years ago on the CBC I heard the CBC Vancouver chamber orch. recording of the Brandenburgs, despite some trumpet cacks in the 2nd concerto & some continuo timing issues in the 6th, I bought the CD because I remember enjoying this recording... especially the 4th concerto. Staryk is the violin solo.

Anonymous said...

I found a Primas Stefan record many years ago in a sale and ever since have been trying to find out who he really was, thank you! The album I have is called Gypsy Caravan, just need a record player so I can hear it again. Would love to hear some more of his recordings.
Thanks again - Sharon.

Nigel Jones said...

I too found the Primas Stefan recording - Gypsy Caravan in a junk shop. It's a wonderful set of tunes that my brother kindly converted to CD for me. Listening to it right now!

Which of the modern CD releases contains the tracks from Gypsy Caravan? I'd like to obtain a better quality version than mine, which has a good few skips, crackles and hisses on it!

Elaine Fine said...

There is some Gypsy Caravan music on Centaur's CRC 3203: Steven Staryk: A Retrospective: Volume 2.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this! I bought the LP 'Gipsy Campfires' in a bargain bin at a record shop and was trying to find out more about him. Mystery solved (well, partly ;) )