Ferenc Kiss seems to be surprisingly little known outside Hungary. Over the years he's put together complex major projects involving many of the country's leading roots musicians, including Outlaws Of The City in 1999, Sounds Of The Seven Towers in 2001 and The Month Of Love in 2005, all of which are well worthy of exploration.
This time, for Szerelemajtók – Love's Doors, the unifying theme is the huge body of traditional songs, ballads and dance tunes that Béla Bartók collected and drew on in his compositions. Kiss was commissioned by the Budapest Spring Festival for a work to go on the same programme as a performance of Bartók's opera Bluebeard's Castle.
The album is in seven sections, like the opera, and each combines several traditional songs or tunes. The 17 performers include female singers Bea Palya, Ági Szalóki and Kati Szvorák, Kiss's own gruff, declamatory vocals and violin, cimbalom ace Kálmán Balogh, violinist Csaba Ökrös and the wonderfully grainy, breathy and reedy sound of furulya, sax, tarogato, bagpipe and kaval from Balázs Szokolay and Mihály Dresch, with pulsing asymmetric rhythms and lines from viola, koboz, zither, guittar, accordeon, synth, double bass and percussion.
The packaging is Kiss's label Etnofon's usual class job, though not a long-pack like his earlier albums, but the booklet neglects to give some desirable information, namely the titles and soureces fo the traditional songs and tunes from which it's assembled, and exactly who sings or plays on what.
Rich in melody, texture and assymmetric rhythms, this album exemplifies the riches of Hungarian traditional music which Bartók championed as collector and composer. It and Kiss's earlier works deserve much wider international attention than they have so far gained. It's avaiable in the UK from www.passiondiscs.co.uk, and samples of all the tracks are at www.etnofon.hu.
Written by: Andrew Cronshaw