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Lajko Felix at the Spitz (review)

PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:52 pm
by howard male
What music, what virtuosity, and with an impassioned intensity that cannot fail to grip. I am gripped and tears well up, but then I get a grip.

Two violinists, one happy to play second fiddle to the other, who is the great Lajko Felix - an unsung superstar, at least here anyway, of the violin. Although the first instrument we see him bring to life is the citera, a kind of Hungarian zither, while his musical companion plays violin.

I've never seen two musician play so quietly and yet hold an audience so steadfastly. No one speaks, no one moves, and no one makes a sound, except when they're clapping along. moments. Out streams this music of longing, enrapture, joy, fury. The frantic seesawing of bows, slowly for a bar of eight, then back up and up, reaching a screaching and rasping almost flamenco intensity, as if they are duelling swordsmen. And then lyrical again; friends again; calm again.

This cycle of changing moods continues for piece after piece for the next two hours. Barely a drink is brought at the bar, a couple are ticked off for daring to exchange whispers, and the two musicians gallop on, oblivious to everything except the spell they are casting.

My brother in law, Steve and I find ourselves comfortably in conversations with Brits and Eastern Europeans between bands. It's as if we have joined a secret sect of Lajko lovers. One guy reinforces my suspicion that this was the man's first UK appearence since he broke a string on CG's show some six odd years ago. Let's hope he returns again soon.

The support act, Paprika Balkanicus, are worth checking out to. There leader is a London-based Romanian violinist called Bogdan Vacarescu, who also has a fire in his soul and blurred fingers, and he is flanked by a guitarist from Serbia and a bassist from Slovenia. We thought they were great. That was until Laiko took to the stage and blew them away - everything is relative. Anyway, don't miss this force of nature next time he grants us a royal visit!

PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 5:42 pm
by NickH
Howard wrote:

this was the man's first UK appearence since he broke a string on CG's show some six odd years ago.

The Laiko Felix duo also played at the Dirty Three's ATP bash in Minehead on Saturday. Is Laiko the one with the beard? I missed the introductions.

PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 8:58 pm
by Chris P
Great review Howard. We saw Felix and Antal last Thursday in Dorchester Abbey outside of Oxford. Your description and evocation of the event and atmosphere matches our experience too. May the "secret sect of Lajko lovers" flourish and become less and less secret !


PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2007 9:32 am
by howard male
Thanks Chris. When someone says I've captured the atmosphere of a gig it's the best complement they could give. It's a mystery why this man hasn't been picked up on by the world music business in the UK - he'd make a great fRoots cover star with his foot-long pipe and droopy hair!

As he isn't that well known here, I'm sure his agent wouldn't mind if I reproduce the press release I was which has contact details and a brief biog:

Lajkó Félix

Lajkó Félix was born in Yugoslavia on December 17th in 1974. He started playing the zyther when he was 10. He first had a violin in his hand when he was 12, and has finished the six years of musical school in three years time. He has then finished his formal studies and turned towards concerting. Played jazz with Dresch Quartett (H), contemporary music with the Hungarian piano composer and player György Szabados and was a member of the Ensemble Ritual Nova of Boris Kova. Has performed with Romanian born, London based Alexander Balanescu. Has played in Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Belgrade, Paris, Bordeaux, Frankfurt, London, Edinbourgh, Tokyo, Bratislava, Venice, Verona, Wuppertal and Monte Carlo, several cities in Romania. In 2001, Félix has played at the world famous theatre festival of Avignon and the most prestigious Theatre de la Ville in Paris and has had a very warm welcome at the Pina Bausch Festival in Wuppertal.

"My music is based on the delicacy and colourfulness of my instrument. I do not play any new types of musical genre, I only follow my own path and improvise and write music. I cannot see differences between musical styles and ways, so I play folk-, classical-, rock-, blues-, jazz-, and improvisational music. I have written music to several theatre plays and films for Yugoslavian and Hungarian directors. I wrote a musical piece for the festival commemorating the Sarajevo Cultural Olympics."

Has also peformed with Min Tanaka from Japan, Noir Désir (F), and with Boban Markovi (YU). The famous Hungarian film director Miklós Jancsó has shot a movie about him in 1999. Félix has been awarded the prize of „Young Artist" in Hungary and in the year 2000 has received „Pro Urbe" (For The City) in his home town of Subotica. In 2OO5 Felix has received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic from the President of the country.

September 2OO1 he has finished working on an album that blends his talent as an instrumentalist and as a leader of a group, where musicians from different cultural background blend a very specific East-European sound never heard before. Another speciality of the album is the fact that it has been recorded in a forest, totally analog, that gives the sound such „openness" not experienced in the recording industry lately.

2OO2 marks his first compilation album. It is a voyage of an artist, who is constantly seeking new meanings to music, and it is his first album where he also appeares as a solo musician.

His latest album was released in November 2OO4. Again a shocking experience from an artist who is on a constant musical journey. He takes us on a trip of classical, jazz, folk, improvisional music with his trio. Accompanying him is Antal Brasnyó on viola and Ferenc Kurina on double bass. Guest artist is Michael Babinchak on chello.

In 2OO5 he has finished writing music for a theatre play of Shakespeare's Othello and he also has finished recording his first DVD in the caves of Aggtelek. The director of the concert was Csaba Káel, director of award winning Hungarian opera film, Bánk bán.

In 2OO6 Felix has started the year with a sellout concert in the new Hungarrian venue, the Palace of Arts, where he played as leader of a sextet, and a very succesful concert followed in the Budapest Circus together with Boban and Marko Markovi Orkestar. In August came the Concert of Joy where Felix has invited his favourite musicians and has played a very memorable show in front of 28 OOO people and tens of thousands watching live on Hungarian Television.

This year Lajko is playing the leading role in Kornel Mundruczo's new feature movie 'The Delta', but he will take some time to have a few concerts with his partner musician Antal Brasnyo on viola.

Booking and management:

Vladimir Nemeth
Tilos az A Productions
1O53 Budapest
Magyar u. 8-1O
tel: +362O 9744 544

PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 10:37 pm
by Seb Merrick
I wonder. Flashes of brilliance in parts. But difficult to separate those parts. Like the inspired moments of Zappa, you have to get through some spare time to get there. Was it worth waiting for? You could leave the room for a chat at the top of the stairs (which some did) and come back and not know what you'd missed, but it didn't matter as they were still on the same chord (not a criticism, that was the point after all). I'm not saying that (as a teenage founder of a Steve Reich apprecaition society) I don't like that kind of thing, but I wouldn't book them next time. Too risky, possibly too inhuman, or at least very very introspective (I don't want to use the other common metaphor). It would have been nice to hear something, just something from the guys. Finally I decided that Felix must be the one with the straggly beard playing other than chords (don't think that qualifies him for an article in fRoots). Apparently though their silence was probably linguistic, since tallking to them after did not help much. But that's genius for you.