Down as in low. When I saw Classical Revolution this past March at Silvio’s Organic Pizza on North University, there were two violinists, two cellists, a bass player—Richard Robinson of the DSO, no less—and seven, count ’em, seven violists, including renowned local veteran John Madison and CR founder Charith Premawardhana. Though the violists only played two or three at a time, the ensemble was still distinctly bottom-heavy—and all the funkier for it.
They opened their first set with a rocking Ruslan and Ludmila overture by Glinka. If the ensemble was a bit scrappy at times, well, Ruslan is one mother of a virtuoso overture. But the more important thing is that Glinka’s soaring themes and propulsive rhythms came across with tremendous energy in the young musicians’ hands—and their enthusiasm was infectious.
That’s more or less the point. From the time it was founded in 2006 at the Revolution Cafe in the Mission District of San Francisco, the mission of Classical Revolution has been to “present concerts and non-concerts involving traditional and non-traditional approaches,” as their press release says. What that means in practice is an ad hoc band taking on pieces they may or not have played before in styles they may or may not have ever tried before—and having a blast doing it.