Reviewer: Matt Stimpson
The Public Reviews Rating:
The Budapest Cafe Orchestra are fine purveyors of traditional Balkan, Russian, Romanian, Eastern European and Jewish music. As the Orchestra stride onto the atmospheric stage of Square Chapel, complete with dimly lit lamps, fedora hats and sharp suits, we are drawn into the Eastern European world. We quickly find out our mystical ensemble are actually from Harringay, but gladly this will be the only disappointment of the evening.
The concert opens with vigour and drive, bringing the audience to life, with excellent playing, assured both technically and musically. The first three pieces segue from one to the other, travelling through various styles, featuring some great individual playing, particularly from Chris Garrick on Violin.
Garrick introduces the band to the audience, and is clearly at ease, with a confidence in his humour that has clearly been honed over a number of years. We move to the dramatic passion of the Overture from the Trolls of Norway, with the orchestra really painting a wonderful evocative picture.
One feature throughout the evening is the amazing call and response playing between the ensemble, particularly impressive is the work between Garrick and Eddie Hession on button accordion, with their aural skills being rather amazing at times.
The ensemble continue with a modern Jewish lament, the Flat Bush Waltz, before completing the first half with a clever reworking of Czardas, a great ending to a great half.
The audience are quick to find their seats in the second half, which opens with the Harringay Rhapsody, a piece which bookends the National Anthem with more Eastern European fun. The Hungarian Ring dance is next, with atmospheric playing, full of mystery, particularly from Adrian Zoltuhin on Suz (also guitar and Balalaika at various points in the evening).
This leads to one of Zoltuhin’s own compositions, dedicated to their touring lifestyle, entitled Travelodge, which is complete with percussion opening, and builds throughout with riff patterns.
The concert continues with a real change of mood, and this is a really special moment in the concert, opening with accordion, then pizzicato violin figures, the imposing double bass of Kelly Cantlon and the Balalaika, this is so sensitive and light, and showed such beautiful restraint.
The concert then starts to journey to its close, Kalinka, leading to a very clever eastern reworking of Puttin’ on the Ritz, Summertime and In the Hall of the Mountain King, before the rhythmic vitality and excitement of the ritual fire dance closes the concert.
The encore of the evening is yet more foot tapping fun, featuring a mobile phone sketch, and cleverly working born free into the performance. Many would say Eastern European musicians are also born free to roam as they like, and touch people’s lives with their music, something the Budapest Cafe Orchestra did very well tonight.