A love story and a music story

Vanguard Concert Series presents Cavatina Duo

By Rick Eichhorn

Photo: The Vanguard Concert Series presents The Cavatina Duo on Nov. 16 at the Dayton Art Institute

Artists, musicians, teachers, parents, travelers, explorers, performers – any of these words could be used to describe the acclaimed husband and wife team known as the Cavatina Duo. On Sunday, Nov. 16 the exquisite talent and unique chemistry of this duo, composed of Denis Azabagic and Eugenia Moliner, will be on display at the Dayton Art Institute as part of the Vanguard Concerts series.

“We needed a name when we recorded our first CD in 1999,” Moliner explained about the origins of the duo’s name. “I was looking for a word that would reflect a lot of things that I feel when I play music. A name that reflects simplicity and beauty.” (The word “cavatina” means a simple and short song.)

The couple first met in the fall of 1991 at Rotterdam’s Conservatorium in the Netherlands. She, from Spain, was studying the flute. He, from the former Yugoslavia, was studying the guitar – although he was also there to get out of his war-torn country. In 1993, the couple married in Spain.

Theirs is a relationship that holds the special satisfaction of both traveling and playing music together, Azabagic explained. They have the added extra dimension of “communication in the language of music.” In performance, especially when in concert halls such as DAI’s intimate Renaissance Auditorium, their audiences will likely experience and feel everything they are going through. “So much happens on stage – any emotion you can name … So often I get goose bumps,” Azabagic said of performing with Moliner.

In a phone call that found Azabagic in a corporate suite with a spectacular view overlooking the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, practicing the day before a concert, he related a phrase he once heard about music and that he has always stayed with him: “Music opens a door to a different world.” Once the musician opens that door for the audience, he said, it remains open forever.

“When you achieve what you envision, it’s a sublime feeling,” Azabagic said.

Moliner has been lauded by the American Record Guide for her “polished technique and a beautiful sparkling tone that is perfect for this music.” She was first introduced to music at age 14 when a neighbor invited her to join a band. He gave her a trumpet, but, after a short while, when she complained of sore lips, he said he would give her a more feminine instrument and handed her a flute.

“When I took the flute in my hands and played it, I felt this is really what I want to do,” she said. “This is me.”

Azabagic, on the other hand, discovered music at the early age of five. At six, he decided on the guitar because, at the time, he “was fascinated with the Beatles.” Years of guitar lessons and practicing taught him that, in order to play music, “you have a different language to learn,” and to become an artist, “you have to develop your own style.”

“Music was always the most fascinating subject because it was so mysterious,” he said, explaining music encompasses all aspects of the analytical and emotional mind, as well as being a demanding skill. “Such a stimulating process,” he said. “ … so many aspects of your mind and soul.”

Azabagic is a prizewinner in 24 international competitions and has been lauded by Soundboard Magazine as a “guitar virtuoso with flawless technique.” Winning a competition in 1993 at the age of 20 gave him the opportunity to play concerts in the U.S., which planted the first seeds of the couple’s eventual move to this country, first to Indiana and then to Chicago.

Today, traveling the globe together or apart, they both manage to maintain balance with full schedules of solo recitals, chamber music and engagements as soloists with orchestras. Reviewers have used phrases, such as “vibrant and electrifying,” “exceptional virtuosity and panache” and “sensual sounds,” to describe the two musicians. As the Cavatina Duo, they have recorded five CDs for Spanish and American labels. But their busy lives don’t stop at concert performances. They have a nine-year-old son named Alexander, and they are both resident artists and faculty members at the historic Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

“Teaching makes you reflect on the things you are telling your students,” Azabagic said. “It reminds you that you have to do what you preach.”

In this age of so much digital content, Azabagic is quick to say no device can replace human contact, and he and Moliner are doing everything possible to keep chamber music alive for new generations. When they travel, they often participate in outreach programs, such as holding master classes and recitals at local high schools. Also, their legacy is being passed on to Alexander. He is studying the piano and has recently picked up the trumpet for his school band. His current repertoire ranges from “Moonlight Sonata” to music from the movie “Ghostbusters.”

With such a complete and beautiful story behind them, it would be easy to speculate Azabagic and Moliner are ready to rest on their laurels. On the contrary, they both continue to strive for perfection. Moliner also said she never wants to live a life that holds regrets.

“I want to challenge myself,” she said. “There’s always so much to do and so much to learn.”

And for those of all ages who have grown up with a misplaced belief that classical music is too stuffy and has too serious of an attitude, Azabagic said that people are very pleasantly surprised when they hear their repertoire. “What we play is very accessible.”

The Cavatina Duo will perform at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16 in the Renaissance Auditorium at the Dayton Art Institute, located at 456 Belmonte Park North. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Parking is free in an adjacent lot. For more information, please visit Cavatinaduo.com

Reach DCP freelance writer Rick Eichhorn at RickEichhorn@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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