MozArt Group at Cerritos: Sophisticated Unsophistication
By Glen Creason
Many in the audience at the Performing Arts Center did not know what to expect out of the group MozArt that was billed as “taking a unique approach to Classical compositions.” Did this mean playing them one-handed or while dancing a tango or by making musical sounds with their cheeks? Or might it suggest riotously up-tempo, changed tempo, mixed with Jazz or Rock or Bluegrass twists of great compositions. The answer is yes, to all of those. Somewhere, someone also compared them to Victor Borge, the utterly hilarious musician/comedian who once sat at the Steinway on the Cerritos stage and brought the house down. Yet, I must say neither the first description nor the comparison to the great Borge comes close to the wildly inventive and most certainly hilarious evening of hi-jinks these four highly creative Polish artists put on display at the Center. Filip Jaslar, Lodz Michal Sikorski, and Pawel Kowaluk where the jesters on violin along with Bolek Blaszczyk who was in charge of the cello and consecutive surname consonants. All thoughts of some seriousness were dispelled in the opening send up of Beethoven played with yee haw, yodeling, Fiddler on the Roof fiddling and Latin bravado all in the same five minute burst while they donned appropriate headgear.
Later they expanded the limits of any kind of music, playing Strauss waltzes in a 1950’s rock and roll style with violins turned into tiny guitars handled Elvis style and forged some “Scheherazade” into a Cha Cha Cha with foot percussion. This blended into a fine string quartet reading of “Fur Elise” played with all four men keeping a hand in their pockets until the violins and cello started into a Scott Joplin Rag, followed by “La Bamba” and “Eine Kleine Nachtmusic” with just lashing bows that placed a paraph on the final notes by forming the Z for Zorro! Well, yes, you sort of had to be there and this was just a small part of the action packed ninety minutes of humorous creativity.
Not all of the inspiration was Classical and we got to see the theme from “Titanic” played as the liner rocked back and forth ready to sink, Chopin blended into a drum solo turned into a Fred Astaire dance tune and even the “Concerto de Aranjuez” somehow ended up being played Russian style. To say there was more is an understatement as gags piled upon one another and inspirations arrived from all over genre and geographies. A terrific number with red lights on bow tips on a darkened stage astounded and Abba, the Beatles, “Carmen,” John Philip Sousa, Heavy Metal, “Rhapsody in Blue” whistled, Rap, Papa Haydn and stately Elgar were played in rapid succession. Even “Ave Maria” was played with a dentists drill and screaming patient. Really, you HAD to be there to believe this stuff and everybody was laughing. The encores came in triplicate with the ensemble playing while encased in casts, singing “O Solo Mio” with audience participation and a spirited “When the Saints Go Marching In” that gave the audience a chance to stand and cheer, then cheer some more. Turns out MozArt was even better than advertised.