Helena Baillie, Iva Bittova, and the Bard String Quartet perform at the Hudson Opera House on February 13 | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Helena Baillie, Iva Bittova, and the Bard String Quartet perform at the Hudson Opera House on February 13

Classical Collision


Last Updated: 02/09/2016 12:33 pm

Cool things happen in music when cultures collide. Composers Bela Bartok and Leos Janacek both had this in mind when they veered from the haughty conservatory world to mine the indigenous folk music of their native Eastern Europe. Along with the music of each, the very precept of ethno-musical fusion will be celebrated on February 13, when Czech vocalist and violinist Iva Bittova and English-born violinist Helena Baillie join the Bard String Quartet for "Folk Tales and Myths: Travels Through Hungary and Beyond," a concert at the Hudson Opera House presented by Baillie's Classics on Hudson organization. "This will be the first time that Helena and I have performed together," says Bittova. "So it's very exciting."


Bittova, who was profiled in the April 2014 issue of Chronogram, is an occasional actor as well as a musician whose distinct avant-garde approach encompasses not only classical music and the folk styles of her regional homeland, but opera, experimental rock, and jazz as well. She came of age as a participant of Prague's politically dissenting, psychedelic underground arts scene, which thrived from the 1960s through the 1980s despite the iron hand of the Iron Curtain. Dunaj, the art rock band Bittova cofounded in 1986, brought her outside fame and collaborations with English musicians Fred Frith and Chris Cutler and American players Marc Ribot, George Mraz, Tom Cora, Don Byron, Hamid Drake, Bill Frisell, Bobby McFerrin, and the Bang on a Can collective. She has been a resident of Rhinebeck since 2007.

Baillie, who doubles on viola, was raised in London and makes her home in the Hudson area. A Bard College artist in residence and member of its violin faculty, she has performed throughout Europe and the US and collaborated with Pinchas Zukerman, Midori, the Tokyo String Quartet, and the Beaux Arts Trio. An international prizewinning instrumentalist, Baillie performs frequently at prisons and appears on behalf of Music Kitchen, a program that brings together top musicians to share the inspirational, therapeutic, and uplifting power of music with disenfranchised New Yorkers. In 2015, she became co-artistic director of the newly revived Classics on Hudson association.

Performing with Bittova and Baillie at this month's concert will be the student-staffed Bard String Quartet. In addition to Janacek's Moravian folk-referencing works, the program will also include several of Bartok's Slovak songs in special arrangements for voice and string quartet. Bittova knows her Bartok well, having recorded 44 Dueta pro Dvoje Housle (Rachot Behemot Records), an album of the composer's violin duets with Dorothea Kellerova, in 1997. But so do several of her and Baillie's accompanists for the evening; the quartet includes student musicians from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. "They have this music in their blood," she says.

"Folk Tales and Myths: Travels Through Hungary and Beyond" featuring Iva Bittova, Helena Baillie, and the Bard String Quartet, will be presented at the Hudson Opera House on February 13 at 7pm. Tickets are $35 and include a post-performance champagne reception with the artists. (518) 822-1438; Hudsonoperahouse.org.

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