Balkan Fever

Author: 
Rob Cowan
V5395. Balkan FeverBalkan Fever

Balkan Fever

  • (2) Romanian Rhapsodies, No. 1 in A

This is fun, primarily because of a touch of ‘premature congratulation’ towards the end of Enescu’s First Romanian Rhapsody. The ever-resourceful Kristjan Järvi and his MDR Leipzig players lay on the spice with a vengeance, push the dance element too; but, come the pause before the tangy, upbeat coda, the audience suddenly bursts into applause, thinking (one assumes) that the piece is over. When it starts up again, Järvi, his players and the audience make a virtue of necessity and prompt a happily rioting finale.

The rest of the programme consists of improvised or orchestrated music from the Balkan region, the improvisations involving the guitarists Vlatko Stefanovski and Miroslav Tadic´, with kaval player Theodosii Spassov (a kaval, by the way, is a chromatic end-blown flute traditionally played throughout the region). Aside from the trio improvisations, there’s Balkan music with guitars, kaval and orchestra, most of the arrangements by Spassov. All goes well while the notes are aflame but as soon as the music lapses into bland, panpipes-style ‘easy listening’ mode, my eyes glaze over and I’m in danger of drifting into an esoteric land of nod (try Eleno, tr 6, for size). Aside from the Enescu (which is worth hearing, albeit once or twice), the best tracks are Fire Feast (tr 10) and the closing Gypsy Dance. Good as it is to hear the Leipzig band entering into the eastern fray, there’s too much flesh on the bones here, not enough pulsing red blood or flexing of muscle. I’d treat it like a one-off concert then pass it to a friend. Clear, vivid sound.

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