A local take on world music

A local take on world music

A Petersburg duo is shaking up the music scene with its bold renditions of classical compositions.

Published: May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)


In-Temporalis consists of Cuba-born percussionist Yoel Gonzalez (l) and St. Petersburg pianist Polina Fradkina.

In-Temporalis, a musical duo founded four years ago in St. Petersburg who have attracted attention, praise and criticism from all over Russia and beyond for their innovative renditions of classics, will perform on May 18 in Smolny Cathedral.

The musical project consists of two musicians: Polina Fradkina, who plays classical piano, and Yoel Gonzalez, who plays percussion. The pair of musical polyglots introduce audiences to music from various times and cultures, combining musical styles that may at first seem irreconcilable. In-Temporalis is spectacularly eclectic, mixing different musical genres and developing a new breed of musical performance. The duo not only introduces spectators to utterly original musical directions, but forces them to look afresh at modern music and contemporary attitudes to classical music.

In-Temporalis is generally defined as crossover — the ensemble combines popular classical music with diverse musical styles. Their music, according to Fradkina and Gonzalez, illustrates the difference in interpretations of world music, in which various European and Latin American musical traditions meet. European music focuses more on form, say the musicians, while African and Latin American music gives far more importance to the role of rhythm. In-Temporalis’s calling card is their ability to blend great compositions by Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Grieg, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rossini and others with Latin American and African rhythms.

The musicians themselves embody the nature of crossover: Fradkina is a successful classical pianist who comes from a musical family in St. Petersburg, while Gonzalez is a native of Cuba who came to Russia almost 20 years ago.

The musicians were brought together, despite their different backgrounds, by the St. Petersburg music scene. Fradkova was, she says, always interested in avant-garde music, while Gonzalez was open to taking part in experimental projects. That was the impulse for their first jam session four years ago.

The musicians say that they associate St. Petersburg with uniting cultures, and an acceptance of various genres and styles, independent of time and culture.

The starting premise of In-Temporalis is that classical works are not museum exhibits, but on the contrary, are ripe for experimentation by contemporary musicians. “Those who we call classic composers today were, in their time, pioneers who experimented with and crossed many boundaries,” said Fradkova, adding that she believes that the composers would have approved of In-Temporalis’ experiments.

Many musical genres are appearing today: Crossover, world music, ethno music, new classic, to name but a few. There are contemporary music festivals held all over the world at which symphony orchestras and folk ensembles perform as equals.

Fradkina and Gonzalez say that it is difficult for audiences to understand music from other cultures due to various musical traditions: For Latin Americans, it is rhythm that creates music and harmony. Europeans may not be able to distinguish between rhythms or even discern the music itself in African and Latin American musical schools.

Outside of the partnership, the musicians both have active solo careers: Fradkina performs all over the world, and Gonzalez gives solo concerts and performs together with a whole host of Russian pop and jazz performers and ensembles. He has organized five jazz festivals in Russia, and gives master classes in a variety of folk percussion instruments.

In the near future, In-Temporalis’s plans include a tour of Russian cities, the release of a new disc, and recording of another. In the past, the ensemble has toured countries including Germany, Saudia Arabia, Armenia and Norway.

It could be said that the duo has taken on the mission of inculcating international musical tolerance. The ability to listen to and accept unfamiliar sounds and rhythms is a key principal of musical internationalism, and it is perhaps no coincidence that In-Temporalis was born in St. Petersburg — a city that since its creation has been a melting pot for different nationalities, religions and musical styles.

In-Temporalis will perform at 7 p.m. on May 18 at Smolny Cathedral, 3 Ploshchad Rastrelli. Tel: 314 2168.

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