Romanian Rhapsody – Queen Classics As you’ve Never Heard Them Before
Vlad Maistorovici is a composer and musician who’s been described as a cross between Stephane Grappelli and Brian May. The Romanian-born violinist moved to the UK at the age of 16 to study violin at the Yehudi Menuhin School. He’s a fan of a wide variety of music including Queen – his favourite band. He’s such a superfan he’s created his own homage to the legendary rock icons by giving their music a fresh twist with his unique and brilliant arrangements. Here, he gives us a little taste of what we can expect:
What can you tell us about Queen Classics?
It started 10 years ago. We did a big project in Cardiff with Sinfonia Cymru so that’s where it really took off. What the audience is going to hear in Harrogate is a version of this performed for several instruments – the clarinet, violin, piano and string quartet. It’s dare I say a personal take on the music of Queen. It’s respectful of every note so I’m not interfering with the original songs, but obviously it’s all instrumental. It’s very faithful to the original spirit of the music. So the audience will enjoy the original music as seen by a very big fan!
You’re from Romania so where does your love of Queen’s music come from?
It’s the music of my parents’ generation. Family and friends loved bands like Queen, the Beatles and Pink Floyd so I grew up with this music all around me. I grew up knowing this music and loving it. I had a very classical music upbringing and I started playing the violin when I was very young. But I was encouraged to listen to other types of music, I wasn’t just listening to Mozart and Beethoven.
Do the songs of a rock band lend themselves to classical arrangements?
Queen had classical influences in their music and this fascinated me a lot. They became my favourite band and as a classical violinist I just wanted to play this music that I loved, and there was no other way than to make my own arrangements and play it with my friends.
How hard was it to come up with classical versions of well-known rock anthems?
I’m not the first person to do it. It’s been done by great orchestras, but it’s difficult in the sense that I wanted to stay close to the spirit of the band and their music. You have to listen very carefully and know the music really well. I’m a composer so I have a lot of experience in working with various kinds of music so I use those skills to make sure I capture the spirit of Queen. There are challenges to get the performance of such amazing instrumentalists right. The guitar of Brian May is something you need to listen to very carefully and learn from it. Also the vocals of Freddie Mercury have so much expression – there’s so much expression in all the instruments, in the bass and the drums.
Are audiences for your Queen shows a mixture of rock fans and classical music fans?
Queen fans are everywhere because these songs are so well known – even among classical music audiences there are a lot of Queen fans.
How important was music for you growing up in Romania?
Me and my friends listened to a lot of rock bands and the music of Queen was what I loved the most.
What have been some of the highlights for you?
The big project we did for Queen Classics with Sinfonia Cymru was for solo instruments and a chamber orchestra and that was great. We’ve also performed it in Switzerland, Romania, Italy, and the UK.
What’s been the audience reaction to your Queen Classics concerts?
They hear the spirit of the band coming alive. It’s comparable to a tribute act but it’s not so much about copying it’s about capturing the spirit but in a unique way.
What are you looking forward to about performing in Harrogate?
This is my first time in Harrogate and I hear it’s very beautiful and the festival looks really exciting, so I’m looking forward to being there and to be part of the whole thing. It’s going to be really nice playing with some old friends and collaborators and also some new ones, and the programme is really exciting. Apart from Queen, I’ll be taking part in Strauss’s Metamorphosen and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which is an incredible performance piece. So there’s a lot packed in – which is great.