Fugato Orchestra - Neander Variations/Variációk

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Periferic Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:59:00

The Fugato Orchestra was organized in 2000 by Alpár Balázs as an experimental project while its members were still in Városmajor High School in Budapest, Hungary. In order to expand the orchestra's abilities, jazz musicians and students from various music academies were added. Balázs, who is the composer and orchestra leader, was born in 1982 and started playing the piano at age six. At age 16 he won the Third National Synthesizer Competition (III. Országos Szintetizátorverseny) in Hungary. He and his orchestra members are all formally trained in classical and jazz music.

According to the orchestra's web site, the "type" or genre of music they are playing is meant to preserve the heritage of classical music while making it accessible to lovers of rock and popular music.

The single most obvious characteristic of this orchestra's sound is its emphasis on acoustic instruments. In "Tale About Modesty," for instance, they use a marimba, instead of a vibraphone, as others would have been tempted. :-) The acoustic sound is "reinforced" or complemented, if you will, with the keyboards and synthesizers (and bass guitar, of course). Thusly, drums, synthesizers, and the bass guitar create a bridge between classical (in Hungarian classical is translated as "komolyzene," which means "serious music") and rock or pop (könnyũzene = light music).

Actually it will be very difficult to categorize Fugato into ANY musical box because the music transcends the usual boundaries. Just as well, since those "boundaries" are mostly arbitrarily defined and frequently hotly disputed. As if the specific pigeonhole in which a musician's or an orchestra's work fits is more important than the soul of the music or the pleasure it gives the listener. Harrrrumph.... /soapbox off.

They call it Progressive symphonic jazz-rock, so that's what it is. In fact, I would probably call it "demanding classico-jazzy-prog pop music."

The thematic elements are varied and rich. The most frequently recurring theme is medieval, I suppose, but I think I detected a couple of bars with Hungarian ethnic source. Considering that this is the land of Bartók, Kodály and Liszt, that is not surprising.

Vocals are sparse, but when they are evident, they are perfect ... either wordless or in Hungarian, but the language is utterly irrelevant, since, here, like in so much excellent prog rock, the voice is but another (in this case soprano, alto, and tenor) musical instrument. I am convinced that we will hear much more of Györfi Anna's golden voice in the future, either with Fugato, or elsewhere. Such treasure will not stay hidden long. Maybe the band Funktion will also take off. She is their singer, too.

As to style and content, I expect that, inevitably, comparisons to other bands will be made. Although they actually state on their web site that their influences are After Crying, Jethro Tull, Dream Theater and Liquid Tension, ignore that. This orchestra's sound is derivative of no other's. It has a soul of its own, thank you. But, if you like Solaris, After Crying, Niacin, and Liquid Tension you will absolutely LOVE this album. Guaranteed. I pray that their success doesn't overwhelm these incredibly young talents and that we will hear many more albums by them, with similar obvious enthusiasm and hard work built into them.

Clearly, these kids (oh boy are they young) are having a lot of fun. Looking at the videos, their faces beam with the pleasure of unbridled music playing. This, in turn, is obvious in how they sound. Their instruments truly smile while the artists are playing their hearts out. In top of that, they all sound bloody perfect. Every note where it belongs, every inflection as it was meant to.

My impression is that Alpár Balázs is spreading himself really thin, with various side-projects - one a jazz-fusion band (Funktion = Funk jazz, get it?). He is still a student at the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy in Budapest, he sings in an 80-member choir, plays with two jazz-groups, composes background music for multimedia firms, and sometimes is "asked" to compose music for films.

Although Fugato have an extensive concert schedule, the likelihood of seeing them live on this side of the pond is virtually nil, given that I counted 22 orchestra members and even more instruments. But I'll tell you what... when we go to Hungary again, we will time it so that we can see Fugato Orchestra in concert. Oh, OK, and maybe Korai Öröm, After Crying, Rumblin' Orchestra, D Sound, and Solaris.

The CD also has a multimedia section with videos, live recordings, pictures, and additional mp3s. Some of it is there for sheer fun.

This album has been (so far) the highlight of my 2005 prog-rock listening-year. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!

Neander Valley Chase - Neander-völgyi Hajsza (4:32) / Peace Of Mine - Békém Jeléül (3:28) / Virelai (4:27) / Serenade - Szeren'd (3:20) / Marine Myth - Tengeri Legenda (5:07) / Etnoid (7:30) / Haiku I (1:36) / Haiku II (3:11) / Witches' Sabbath - Boszork'nyszombat (4:33) / Tales About Modesty - Mese A Szerénységrõl (1:36) / Hoquetus (2:50) / Joke - Poén (2:06) / Neander Variations I - Neander-Vari´ciók I (2:52) / Neander Variations II - Neander-Vari´ciók II (3:36) / Neander Variations III - Neander-Vari´ciók III (5:55)

Alpár Balázs ? composer, orchestra leader, piano, synthesizer, tilink? (pipe)
Ujszászi Kinga, Kutas Beatrix, Molnár Dávid, - I. violin
Bazsa Diána, Puss Ferenc - II. violin
Jekl Dóri, Tóth Dávid - viola
Radványi Anna, Zétényi Tamás - cello
Bartányi Réka - contrabass
Marschall Lívia, Lukács Kriszti - flute
Valentiny Gábor - baroque flute. recorder
Hargitai Péter - trumpet
Széki Gyõzõ- oboe
Boros Gábor, Szén?si Mónika - guitar
Delov Jávor (temporarily substituted by Nagy Zsolt) - drums
Veisz Gábor - bass guitar
Bolygó Bence, Kugyelka Zsolt, Papp Dániel - percussions
Györfi Anna - vocals
Bartos Ábel, Marschall Márton - multimedia, technical

Neander Variations/Vari´ciók (2005)
Noé (2010)

Genre: Other

Origin HU

Added: July 25th 2005
Reviewer: Andrew J Rozsa

Artist website: www.fugato.org
Hits: 1627
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]