We all get our music kicks in different ways, don’t we? For some, Beethoven’s Ninth is the absolute pinnacle of human achievement, while for others it might be the in-your-face unapologetically acerbic Sex Pistols punk rock or anything between those two very distant points of musical reference.
We might prefer serious music or we may be looking for chuckleinducing stuff. With Salut Salon, you get both. The all-woman German foursome will put in four performances of their highly entertaining fare on April 19 to 22.
The tour kicks off at the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv, followed by the Auditorium in Haifa, the Jerusalem Theater and the Performing Arts Center in Ashdod.
The idea of the troupe was sown more than three decades ago.
“I met Iris 35 years ago in the school orchestra, and we hit it off right away,” says Angelika Bachmann, one of the violin-playing pair that make up one half of the band.
The Iris in question is Iris Siegfried.
“We are like family,” adds Bachmann.
Considering they were all of eight years old at the time, it is fair to say that the fiddlers have spent almost their entire lives together.
The two have accrued an abundance of shared mileage in both a geographic and an artistic sense.
“We spent half a year together, busking on the streets, and we lived together for five years,” says Bachmann.
The latter enhanced the personal bonding factor, while the former also provided the young women with some valuable street level professional experience. Professional musicians who have done a turn or two on sidewalks or in subway stations in their pre-fame phase generally laud the benefit of putting their artistic wares out in front of a passing audience with no stage lights or state-of-the-art amplification system to hide behind.
Bachmann and Siegfried really did the rounds.
“We traveled and performed in South America and New Zealand and Australia,” says Bachmann. “It was really good experience and a lot of fun.”
The busking on-the-street training stint soon paid off.
“It was around the time the whole thing [of Salut Salon] was starting. We played outside in front of concert halls, and a year later we were playing inside,” Bachmann laughs.
Today, the foursome includes South African-born, German-bred pianist Anne-Monika von Twardowski and cellist Frederike Dany, with the instrumentalists periodically rotating with other players such as violinist Meta Huper, who will perform in Israel in place of Siegfried, who is taking maternity leave. As the troupe keeps up a punishing global touring schedule, the members need to take the occasional break.
From the outset – actually, long before Salut Salon was even a twinkle in Bachmann and Siegfried’s eyes – it was clear that the band was going to mix polished serious renditions of classical music with mad, seemingly irreverent, antics. The two eight-yearolds shared the baton for their class ensemble rehearsals, and more often than not burst into fits of laughter in the process.
The Salut Salon women may spend a significant part of their shows getting up to all manner of slapstick tricks, often contorting themselves into challenging postures in order to play their – and each other’s – instrument, but they clearly know their craft.
“I started playing the violin when I was four, and I hardly did anything else until I was around 20,” says Bachmann. “I practiced something like 11 hours a day, every day. I had a lot of respect for my Russian teacher, and I wanted to do good for the composer. We had no TV in my house, so it was natural for me to practice.”
Even so, Bachmann must have managed to graduate from high school because at the age of 19 she branched out a little when she started a degree in music, philosophy and German literature. Even though she knew from the word go that she was destined to become a professional musician, she decided to take an unconventional approach to the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky et al.
“It didn’t make sense to me to always play [classical works] the same way, and we could change things. We always arrange everything we play. I met Iris when I was very young, and we always had fun playing together, so I knew we would change the music. I love to do my own stuff,” she explains.
Bachmann says that she and Siegfried did not have a premeditated idea of getting their audiences to laugh.
“We never planned for that,” she says. “We just wanted to do what we like to do.”
The concept went through a gestation period.
“We had a salon – like they used to have in the 19th century – every last Friday of the month, for around 10 years. The name of the group comes from that. Now we only manage it maybe a couple of times a year because we are always on tour. We played with our friends, and people brought their own poems. It grew and grew, and we eventually had our first concert in Hamburg,” she recounts The audience at the inaugural show responded enthusiastically, and the rest is history.
“We have played in America, France, Korea, South America, and now we are coming to Israel,” says Bachmann. “We are so happy to be coming to Israel.”
The band members not only play serious instrumental renditions of classical works, as well as the comedic stuff, but they often tailor vocal material to the local audience.
“We did a whole show in Chinese when we performed in China. That was pretty difficult. It was quite hard singing in Korean and also in Russian, but of course Spanish and French are much easier, much closer to English.”
All four shows in Israel will be sung in English and will be based on Saint-Saens’s A Carnival of the Animals and Other Fantasies. The work, which has been described as a “zoological fantasy,” comprises 14 short pieces that tend to the witty side of musical expression. It also offers plenty of opportunities for a dynamic and fun presentation. Be prepared to be right royally entertained.Salut Salon will perform from April 19 to 22 at the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv; the Auditorium in Haifa; the Jerusalem Theater; and the Performing Arts Center in Ashdod. For tickets and more information: http://salut-salon.com. Tel Aviv (03) 692-7777; Haifa (04) 837-7777; Jerusalem *6226; Ashdod (08) 956- 8111