Words by Simon Broughton
Ágnes Herczku is one of Hungary’s best folk vocalists and has become even better-known since she’s been a judge and presenter on Hungary’s folk version of X Factor on TV. This album was made in collaboration with her partner, Bulgarian-born instrumentalist Nikola Parov, also a significant name on the Hungarian folk scene. The album is a sequence of love songs, mostly sad, some traditional and others original, but it’s often difficult to tell them apart. The opening track sounds typically Hungarian but the accompaniment brings in threads of counterpoint before going into Transylvanian dance mode.
Elsewhere, Parov’s love of Balkan instruments has him playing guitars, bouzouki, kaval and delicate kanun (zither). ‘Glava Li Ti’ is an exquisite Bulgarian song featuring several of these instruments and the excellent fiddle playing of Máté Hegedűs. Sometimes Parov combines disparate ingredients but in an organic way. ‘Gyimesi Karszilamasz’ brings together a melody and the strident violin style from the Carpathian region of Gyimes with a Turkish rhythm and then adds a complex percussive groove with a flute solo that’s very compelling. In short, this record encapsulates some highlights of traditional Hungarian music, brings in some spices from outside and features top vocal and instrumental artistry.
TRACK TO TRY Gyimesi Karszilamasz