It was a groundbreaking way to look at the life and music of Brahms, and I am floating on air to have a chance to be part of such a historic (if that's the best word) performances right here in New York City.
The program delved into the story of the "other" Brahms- not the venerated bearded old man, but a younger composer and his influences. I had always assumed that he wrote those Hungarian Dances because Hungary was some alien, exotic land. But I never considered this: Brahms was born in 1833, and so the Hungarian revolution of 1848 came at a very formative age for him. A flood of refugees exposed him to the music, and even more importantly, his career got started by touring with a Hungarian violinist, Eduard Remenyi.
That's all well and good, but what about Alec Baldwin?
Okay, okay, I was pretty star-struck by Alec Baldwin as well. I was curious if he would be a prima donna, or if he would be some jokester. At our rehearsal with the NY Phil, he was extremely professional, and the writer/producer of the show, Joe Horowitz, gave him very direct criticism. He wrote his notes and we worked very efficiently.
The script included a VERY scratchy recording of Brahms made in 1889. It was barely audible, and it evoked snickers during the rehearsal. Alec asked if he could come up with some line, and Joe was fine with it. During the performance, the audience struggled to decipher the hiss with some music buried, and Alec said "Ahh, they don't make them like that any more." He hit the spot exactly.
To tell the truth, Alec Baldwin was only a small part of the experience. Standing between the cello and viola section was a thrill for me, and one memorable moment was when the two sections were exchanging plucked phrases. Everyone was great- the orchestra was personally very warm and supportive. The conductor, Daniel Boico, was warm and really enjoyed what he was doing. As he said to us in passing, "If you're not having fun, why do it?"
Ultimately, the stars of the show for me were my bandmates in Életfa. Alex Fedoriouk played cimbalom, and he's one of my musical heroes. When we got on stage, I realized it was just another stage, and we needed to do what we do best: Enjoy ourselves. I was so glad when we started playing and Ildiko (our lead violin) broke out in one of her radiant smiles. Playing with Életfa is one of my greatest joys imaginable.
When we got back to our room, we not only had some home-made palinka, but the Phil left a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. What a classy operation.
Hungarians take over New Brunswick, NJ on the first Saturday of every June. This year brought yet another new crop of young dancers and musicians... it brought outrageously hot weather... and hot weather will do nothing to slow down Hungarian dance fanatics.
Here's a peek at the festivities by some of our great friends:
The newest cimbalom master in New Jersey
Here are some videos:
Our intrepid kontra player Aron Székely has posted new videos of Metró Hungarian folk. This is from our recording session in Brooklyn at Pete Fand's new studio:
For more, click here
Our new and newly renamed Hungarian folk band Metro Folk is not used to playing on Saturday morning. But the timing wasn't the only thing out of the ordinary for when we played at the Four Seasons restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. We played at the request of my old friend Spencer Tunick who was doing an art installation that consisted of photographing a hundred or so naked volunteers.
The photo above has been taken from Eater.com, and you can see the original context at
Four Seasons Gone Wild: Spencer Tunick Stops in for Lunch. Please don't watch this if you are offended by the naked body.
The ...Na Hungarian folk group has been all around town these days, and here are some videos that capture the funky Hungarian vibe.
Vox Pop with Kata singing:
And if that isn't enough to satisfy your Hungarian folk music video needs, you can go here:
Áron Székely has been instigating a new generations of Hungarian and Hungarian-sympathizers into bursting out into music and dance. These incidents have been witnessed around the streets of Manhattan and New Brunswick, NJ and on YouTube. Videographic proof is available here:
Further incriminating evidence can be found on his blog, located on the Internet at hungarianfolkdance.net.
I've been enjoying reading Bob Cohen's travel descriptions in his blog. Here's his post about travelling around the Csángó region in Carpathian mountains of Romania:
"Well... just wait here..." said one old lady, and sure enough, within a minute everybody had dived into their laundry chests and brought out the old dowry pieces. It used to be the custom in Csángó villages to make an entirely new set of dress costumes for each Easter, and then set it aside as a dowry. The younger generation wants more modern weddings, so most older woman have a chest full of weavings and embroidered costumes mothballed away. Old folks don't get many opportunities to pick up extra cash in these remote areas, so soon the street was full of old Csángó women trying to make a sale.
(This part of Romania is called Moldavia, not to be confused with the independent country with the same name, in case you were wondering.)