Lara St. John has long been a collector of music from Eastern Europe, beginning with her first trip to Hungary at 11 years old. She met jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz several years ago, and he proved a catalyst to her idea that some of these tunes might be well heard anew. This project includes songs from Armenia, Palestine, the Jewish Diaspora, Russia, Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Romania, and Hungary. Some are fully written, some are partly improvised, but they all come from tunes that Lara has known and loved for years.
Recording features traditional folk tunes from the Jewish Diaspora, Eastern Europe, Balkans, Caucasus and Middle East, reimagined by today’s composers.
1. CZARDASHIAN RHAPSODY (6:07) Hungary/M. Kennedy
2. VARIAIUNI (“BAR FIGHT”) (3:22) Romania/L. St. John
3. ČOČEK (4:27) Macedonia/ M. Paranosic
4. NAFTULE SHPILT FAR DEM REBN (3:50) Yiddish/L. St. John
5. AH YA ZAYN (7:49) Palestine/J. Kameel Farah
6. MISIRLOURI (3:31) Jewish Diaspora/Y. Boguinia
7. SARI SIROUN YAR (4:30) Armenia/S. Kradjian
8. NAGILARA (7:57) Israel/M. Herskowitz
9. KOLO (3:09) Serbia/L. St. John
10. FIVE LADINO SONGS (6:51) Judeo-Spanish/D. Ludwig
11. OLTENIAN HORA (2:43) Romania/L. St. John
12. MOSCOW (5:11) Russia/G. Pritsker
13. THE PAIN WILL FIND US (5:04) Greece/J. Psathas
14. CA LA BREAZA (2:37) Romania/M. Atkinson
"What is truly remarkable is the way in which St. John effortlessly and completely captures the sound, style, mood and flavour of these evocative works; Shiksa may be a Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman, but there’s no hint here of St. John’s being an outsider or anything other than totally and genuinely immersed in this music – you get the feeling that she’s playing these pieces from the inside out."
The Whole Note, December 2015
"No other classical player can play with this kind of real gypsy style, and while gypsy players' technique can dazzle, St. John's virtuosity is on a whole other planet entirely. Its as if she has managed what both classical and gypsy fiddlers both aspire to but can never totally achieve in their reach to the other side."
Alicia Svigals, World's Foremost Living Klezmer Violinist
"As she so often does, she has released a recital that doesn’t resemble anything else that I have heard, and it is consistently refreshing to listen to. Superb sound as always from Ancalagon."
American Record Guide
SHIKSA featured on Minnesota Public Radio's Top Picks for New Hits!
December 9, 2015
"Shiksa has St. John and Herskowitz delivering heritage music with passion, furor, and spectacular extemporization."
December 7, 2015
"As my mother would say 'That's not a Shiksa, that's gotta be a Yiddishe Maidl because the heart and soul of that girl is amazing.'"
Marty Starkman, president of the Ashkenaz Foundation, on Zoomer Media
November 18, 2015
"Truth is, St. John can play anything, from the most classical of classical music pieces, to things that are waaaaay out in left field, and she does it all without a hint of pretentiousness or stuffiness. In fact, she knocks the stuffing and the stuffiness out of music in the best possible way.....a great new CD"
Denise Ball, CBC Radio 2
November 14, 2015
"Mix in the talents of jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz, and you have the perfect storm of scintillating and passionate close-to-the-roots native song with a breathless improvisatory feel."
November 7, 2015
"An irresistible new CD"
Iowa Public Radio
November 6, 2015
Five-star Review: "St. John magnifies this approach, building a monument to the folk center of Babylon"..."The music here is densely conceived and performed. There are layers of pathos and ethos to be discovered. St. John's tone and double-and triple-stops are pan-virtuosic while Herskowitz' muscular approach is well suited to the peasant origins of these pieces. Music like this is beyond imagination and talent. It exists only in the loosely-held molecules found on the razor's edge of Creation."
All About Jazz
November 1, 2015
"On her new album, released on her own Ancalagon label, St. John displays nearly superhuman technique as well as a vast appetite to learn, assimilate and advance music of many cultures. With the ideal performing partner and inspired arrangers, this Shiksa is a storm of perfection."
"Violinist Lara St. John has become a special brand of raconteur in the classical music business. Her early Bach recordings are quite exceptional, but St. John has cleared a path with some well-conceived projects like her recent Bach Sonatas with harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet and coupling of Vivaldi and Piazzolla over The Four Seasons. Entitled simply Schubert, St. John programs a recital of Schubert pieces from early and late in the young composer's life, using the unique format of violin, cello (Ludwig Quandt), harp (Langlamet) and soprano voice (Anna Prohaska). The vocal selections are songs based on Goethe. St. John's daring pays off in a highly listenable recording that has much to teach us about performance and interpretation."
All About Jazz
"...absolutely fascinating and engrossing. St. John's relaxed and friendly presentation is perfect, and her commentary always apposite and perceptive. It's absolutely indispensable stuff for student violinists, and offers fascinating and revelatory insight for anyone interested in how concert performances are built."
The Wholenote Magazine
"As I have said before, Ancalagon continues to demonstrate first rate production values present in high class and informative booklets with texts and translations, and superior as-good-as-you-can-get SACD surround sound. This recital, redolent of the type of soiree that Schubert engaged in so often, will provide a boatload of pleasure. Five out of five stars."
October 31, 2014
"I have found each and every selection and performance to contain intricate detailing of not only Schubert’s personality, but the musicians also successfully imbed their own unique voices to naturally meld themselves into Schubert’s world. The smile on my face broadens with each listening until it hurts and I must stop the music in order to recover my senses!."
Of Note: The Blog of WDAV Classical Public Radio
October 27, 2014
"Most striking is a set of three Impromptus drawn from Op. 90, and all played on the solo harp with remarkable dexterity and sensitivity. Released on St. John’s own Ancalagon Records label, the collection is beautifully packaged, with a mesmerizing cover image of a ship under a moody sky."
WQXR Album of the Week
Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014
"Ms. Langlamet manages these Impromptus in positively gorgeous fashion, gliding effortlessly through each number. You'll feel you're being carried away on a cloud on a spring day the way she plays them. .....What a thoroughly lovely disc."
"I love everything about this disc. Thanks go out to Lara St. John, not only for her fine job with the Sonatina for violin and piano Op. 137, but for her creativity and vision."
Buffalo News, September 22, 2014
"Violinist Lara St. John and harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet interact with seamless elegance. The playing is polished and animated, full of subtle shadings."