Ensemble Ambrosius Performs Frank Zappa



During my first year as a grad student at the Early Music Institute, I approached the then director for permission to organize a performance of Terry Riley‘s “In C” on period instruments. (I imagine it might have been a first.) Although he gave me the go-ahead and encouraged my initiative, nothing came of it, there were too many other obligations to focus on.

At the time, Riley’s historic composition was not new to me.

I had taken part in a performance of “In C” as an undergraduate, back when I played the trumpet. It left a such a tremendous impression that I wanted to revisit the work at the Institute but the lure of mastering basso continuo was too strong.

The sound of modern music on period instruments still fascinates me, however, either original or arranged.

The track below took me by total surprise when a friend played it for me recently. It’s an arrangement of Frank Zappa‘s “G-spot Tornado,” performed by the Finnish group Ensemble Ambrosius.

Not only was it an introduction to a period ensemble I’d never heard of (and a cutting-edge album), but an eye-opening introduction to the iconic music of Zappa, who I knew (of course) but had never sat down to listen to.

Ensemble Ambrosius sets the bar very high.


You can watch a live performance of the original here, with Ensemble Modern and Zappa conducting (one of his final performances). A pair of dancers from La La La Human Steps deliver a choreography that sets the stage on fire.

Buy: Ensemble Ambrosius: The Zappa Album

Learn More: Ensemble Ambrosius Website

(photo: Hanna Weselius)

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