european street musicians

European street musicians: Classical music on the corners

A Portland writer/photographer follows her ears to find singers and buskers bringing life to central squares

Story and photos by ANGELA ALLEN
Video by Jan van Santen.

Telemann? Fasch? The notes pave a route, like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. We keep walking, ears wide open.

After twists and turns, we locate the source. The melody resonates under an arch near the Zwinger, one of Dresden’s opulent Baroque buildings. A brass quartet is blowing in baseball hats and rain parkas.

A brass quartet plays baroque music in Dresden.

A brass quartet plays Baroque music in Dresden.

The group lacks the grandeur of the reconstructed arts complex, but we’re not the only passers-by, charmed and mesmerized. Someone throws a 5-Euro bill into the empty horn case and grabs a CD.

accordionist on steps

An accordionist, with her chair and money jar, waits for passers-by to listen and donate a Euro or two near a Dresden viewpoint along the Elba River.

Music rules in Central Europe from street corner to opera house. It’s as commonplace as tourists and pilsners. Presentations are freewheeling, but the tunes’ roots most often spring from the well-known Western classical canon.

Not always. Free jazz and bluegrass, an occasional opera aria, drift about en plein air in public places that can draw a crowd.

accordion and singer 2

A boy band features a violinist and a squeezeboxer in Dresden’s Altstadt (Old Town).

At lunch in Dresden‘s Altstadt (old town), we hear a boy-band featuring a squeeze-boxer and a fiddler. The group croons in English.

fiddler on bridge

Another afternoon, while in Prague, we marvel at roughed-up bluegrass performed by a dancing fiddler’s band. The violin was not always an elegant well-respected instrument; it served itinerant entertainers quite well. And so it does here.