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Strains From the Heart of Hungary
Saturday, February 7, 2004; Page C02; Washington Post

The bell of the sax-like tarogato jutted out trumpet-style in sonic pungency; one violin was played left-handed; a three-string viola was right-angled to the floor, sounding close tone clusters with fast-paced bows; a three-string bass was stroked in sporty riffs; the cimbalom rang out its hammered resonance. This was the GAZSA Hungarian Folk Music Band of Budapest -- teamed up Thursday with the Post-Classical Ensemble for "Csardas!" a concert of Hungarian folk, Gypsy and classical music at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall.

The evening's Hungarian folk music, itself multiethnic, was performed in true folk style with some Gypsy tunes and Hungarian-inspired classical works by Brahms, Liszt and Bartok. This was the latest installment of the Post-Classical Ensemble's series -- offering concerts of genuine folk music that has been absorbed into classical works. Artistic Director Joseph Horowitz says this mix "respects the integrity of music."

The ensemble's concerts were begun three years ago by Music Director Angel Gil-Ordonez and Horowitz, who launched a similar program as executive director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. Starting with a medley of urban Hungarian Gypsy pieces, the folk band had a spellbinding immediacy and earthiness, seasoned with non-Western micro-intervals, accelerating tempos, delayed beats and fiery solos. The cimbalom's hammered tremolos flowed easily into two of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies in a mega-powered display by pianist Alexander Shtarkman, who, with his wife, Maria Strezova, also played five of Brahms's entrancing Hungarian Dances.

Rural Hungarian and Romanian peasant music followed intermission. The band broke into some hearty, many-hued folk tunes, the basis for Bartok's Violin Duos, played with excitement and grace by David Salness and Sally McLain. Gil-Ordońez led the Post-Classicals in Bartok's more abstract Divertimento for Strings in a performance now pulsing, now beautifully reflective. The band and ensemble united for Bartok's Six Romanian Dances -- a combination no less than riveting.
Cecelia Porter
2004 The Washington Post Company

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