13.10.2015 – Budapest Gypsy Orchestra – fekete ejszaka borulj a világra
‘Tcha Limberger’s already extensive and engrossing career has been steadily building towards this smart recreation of 19th Century Budapest’s great era of Magyar Nota music. It’s an eerily elusive but tantalisingly familiar evocation of a genre once so dominatingly pervasive that Bartók found it almost everywhere he searched for roots. It was also the soundtrack of choice for Central European sophisticates, but over time it became almost too palatable, its rougher origins largely forgotten until Limberger’s rational, deeply affecting and revivifying examination.
He is an exceptional performer, but he is also a Sinti musician from Belgium, not a Roma performer from the Carpathian Basin. He is an outsider, who describes the Hungarian capital’s understandable headlong rush into the “glossy Western entertainment” of the west – and its simultaneous seeming rejection of vital traditions – as “a corruption of the mind”. But his homage to the city of his imagination is a triumph, while his musicians are deeply and innately devoted to his vision – expansive, but also articulately minimal when they need to be. All is technical brilliance and defiant passion.
Opener, Rácz Béla Emlékére, is a claustrophobic, lean and mournful tribute to a great Roma violin virtuoso. Szomorúan Zúg Búg A Szél is an interchange of emotional reflections and hurried familiar motifs, transporting before a disconcertingly deliberate failure to entwine brittle clarinet, pizzicato, a subversively distant and nostalgic cimbalom and general headiness. A brilliant manipulation of associations. Indeed, Limberger has talked about the “daring, courage and commitment” that the Roma have traditionally brought to their playing and the resulting “freedom” of interpretation.
Limberger’s obsession with Magyar Nota started as a teenager, beginning with a respectful mastering of the Hungarian language (no mean feat at the best of times, but made even more impressive through his learning in Braille). His vocals in Csókolom A Kis Kezedet (I Kiss Your Little Hand) are more resigned and honeyed than we are accustomed to, as bowed despair and convoluted band stretch across the full twelve minutes that they need, a melodramatic spine-tingle before triumphant clarinet sprints the whole to a shocking finish. Conceived in Bruges, imagined in Budapest, recorded in Abergavenny, this is an empathic evocation. The stylish sound of what was and what is not.