[ATTENDED: March 13, 2016] Avi Avital
A few months ago I wrote about Avi Avtal’s Tiny Desk concert. I had never heard of him, but his mandolin playing was amazing. And then about three days later I saw that he was going to be playing in Princeton. Well, I immediately got tickets.
And today we saw him and he was even more amazing in person.
In the Tiny Desk show, he played solo. But in this show (and tour) he played with two people accompanying him: Ksenija Sidorova on accordion and Itamar Doari on percussion.
The only complaint I had about the show was that there was no progamme, so I had to look up everything online to know what we had just seen. Fortunately I was able to find a setlist, because I never would have remembered what he told us.
Anyhow, in this show, titled Between Worlds Avital and company explore the borders between folk and classical music. What that means is that they play music from classical composers, but also some very traditional folks songs from around the world.
Mandolin doesn’t seem like the instrument of choice for classical music, but Avital, who has been playing since he was little is amazing at the instrument–playing incredibly fast and clear and managing all of those Bach notes like nobody’s business.
Ksenija Sidorova on accordion was also amazing. She managed to get some amazing sounds out of that instrument which is the largest accordion I have ever seen–I’ve never seen so many buttons on the left hand side before. She got some really low notes and also at one point it sounded a bit like a pipe organ. Look at the size of that thing!
But the most amazing part of the show for me was watching Itamar Doari on percussion. We were seated on the right side of the stage and could watch all of the things that Doari was doing with the various percussive items he had. And I marveled at every sound he made. You can see some of his items in the photo below.
I was able to speak to him briefly after the show and he rattled off all of the instruments he had–I couldn’t keep track, but it was so cool to hear him talk about them.
He played a frame drum that looked like a bodhran but wasn’t, a darbuka (an Egyptian goblet drum that you rest on your lap and out of which he brought so many diverse sounds it was incredible) and a modified riq which is like a tambourine but which he also managed to get incredibly deep notes out of. He had cymbals and bells and a box cajon which he sat on and kicked with his heel and managed to get snare and bass drum sounds out of.
This is in no way to take way from Avital’s presence either . You have to be confident to have accompaniment that is so good. And Avital did no disappoint. He playing was inspired. He was charming as he introduced the songs and totally intense while he played them.
I was able to meet him briefly after the show as well and he was super nice and friendly and seemed happy that I had seen the Tiny Desk show.
It was an amazing cultural experience and one I’m so glad we went to.
He had some CDs for sale, but it was cash only, sadly, but he was kind enough to sign my ticket stub.
And the music was wonderful, evoking so many feelings and sounds, from Turkey to Russia to classical.
While I loved the Bach, I was especially delighted with some of the composers I didn’t know. I loved the pieces from Fritz Kresiler and Nikolai Budaskhin whom I’d never heard of before.
And he ended the set with an original song which I don’t recall the name of (and isn’t listed below) which really showcased his virtuosity (and left some room for the others to play as well).
According to the Schubert Club in Minnesota, this is what they played.
Béla Bartók – Romanian Folk Dances
Traditional Turkish – Naciye Naciye
J.S. Bach – Sonata No 6 in G major, BWV 1019 – Allegro
Traditional Bukharan/Israeli – Mi Yitneni Of
J.S. Bach – Sarabande from Overture in the French Style, BWV 831
Traditional Bulgarian – Bucimis
Sulkhan Tsintsade – Three Miniatures based on Georgian Folk Themes
Ernest Bloch – Nigun from Baal-Shem
Fritz Kresiler – Praeledium and Allegro (“in the style of Pugnani”)
Manuel de Falla – Six Spanish Folk Songs
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas Brasilerias
Nikolai Budaskhin – Concerto in A minor
You can watch some of the show (from elsewhere) here