The Zigeunerzeit of Sarasota Music Club, according to Dale Jensen
A hundred years ago, Sarasota and Bradenton were bustling little towns meeting the social, financial and professional needs of this fishing and agricultural area. The ladies of these towns became concerned about the cultural ambiance, or lack thereof, and they formed clubs to ameliorate those concerns. The music clubs sponsored concerts and provided funds to further the musical education of talented youth in the area. A few years ago, the almost century-old music clubs of Bradenton and Sarasota combined, and the resulting group, the Sarasota Music Club, continues to meet these dual needs today.
Which brings us to Friday, October 20, 2017, when the SMC sponsored a truly excellent program, open to the public at no charge, of violin music. The performer, Margot (rhymes with Largo) Zarzycka (rhymes with...well, never mind) is a regular member of the Sarasota Orchestra. Born in Poland and trained in Europe and America, she and collaborator Lee Doughtery Ross presented an hour of flashing music that kept the audience enthralled. In the Sarasota area, standing ovations are too cheaply won, but the Standing O that followed this performance was absolutely deserved.
From the opening Bach Partita movement to the closing Monti Czardas, the room (more on that later) was filled with the rich violin sounds and the exuberant personality of Ms. Zarzycka. Her classical training showed in the perfect arm and hand positions and the careful precision of pitch and technic she displayed throughout. But the real joy was in her Zigeunerblut (Gypsy blood. I made that up...it may be a real word, but if not it should be, just to cover performers like this). With her long hair and flashing eyes, she looked the part, and her playing was filled with the impetuous changes of tempo and intensity of a gifted Gypsy violinist – savage double stops, eerie harmonics, passionate swoops, and sudden left hand pizzicati.
Ms. Ross, with no sanguinary claim that I am aware of, provided her own Zigeunerblut (I kinda like that word) with her skilled and sensitive accompaniment at the piano. Her own vibrant personality was subjugated to the music and the élan of the star of the morning, but her playing was a complete match.
Kreisler’s Liebesleid , Mascagni’s Intermezzo (Cavalleria Rusticana) , and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (aha!) are familiar audience favorites. New to me was Piazzolla’s Oblivion, a moody, emotional, most uncharacteristic Tango from this master of the Tango. Written for cello, it translates well to violin, and Zarzycka and Ross certainly nailed it. Tango Por Una Cabeza by John Williams (Yes, that John Williams, not the classical guitarist nor the jazz pianist John Williamses) was another very welcome surprise.
The site was the Chapel in the Sunnyside Village, a building only two years old, but already becoming a favored home for music performance. The space is light and spacious, with warm, lively acoustics that feel friendly to a performer and satisfying to an audience. Seating about 200 max, its intimacy is just right for performances such as this. Only a stone’s throw away from the Eicher Auditorium that is the Music Club’s usual meeting/performance area, it is immeasurably superior in all aspects save one... it did not allow the traditional serving of delicious pastries provided by the Sunnyside kitchen. Sad!
The Sarasota Music Club offers programs like this each month of ‘the Season,’ varied from the homiest country/folk to the most austere ‘serious’ music. All excellent, and all free. The next of these is a fine baritone, Jason Stearns, again accompanied by the estimable Ms. Ross, Friday, November 17, at 10:30 a.m., (if we are lucky, again in the Chapel) at Sunnyside. Tell your friends. They’ll thank you for it.