This is why it came unexpectedly, when yesterday, on the concert of the Muzsikás Ensemble, organized by the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association (Mazsike) in the Bálint Ház cultural center, where the musicians in turn recounted their stories about how they collected from old Transylvanian and Moldovan musicians the repertoire of the Jewish folk music once played by them, Mihály Sipos presented in detail the memories of the Szék musicians about how the Jews of the village organized their own dance hall, and how they danced the Jewish czardas of Szék with the local Hungarian tunes or with Jewish melodies orchestrated in Szék style, men and women not touching each other’s hands, but clutching the two ends of the same handkerchief. The memory of the missing community was preserved and now enlivened again by the music.
Jewish czardas of Szék. Performed by the Muzsikás Ensemble, Mazsike / Bálint Ház, Budapest, 12 December 2012
The thread of the stories started from the Maramureș music published in the CD The Rooster Is Crowing, but fortunately Mihály Sipos, Péter Éri and Dániel Hamar tried to present mainly those pieces collected by them which are not included on the disc. “This music, played on kaval, was collected in Moldova”, recounts Dániel Hamar. “We played it on several concerts, before we were invited to the Krakow klezmer festival, where the closing concert was a common action of the most renowned ensembles, the Klezmatics, the Brave Old World, and the like. We did not even expect to be there, but we were specially called by phone in the hotel and solicited to go. The aces were jealously sharing the time, who how many minutes gets from the half an hour. When everyone was given his time, we also asked what we are expected to do. What? Well, when everyone played his piece, you come up, and begin this wonderful Moldovan melody. Then gradually everyone switches in. You lead the common performance and play as long as you want.”
Jewish dance from Moldova
On the song Ani Maamini, whose text is the twelfth point of Maimonides’ creed, one of the verses of the morning prayer – “I believe in full faith the coming of the Messiah, and though delayed, I am waiting for him every day to come” – we will also write in detail. The Muzsikás collected it in Maramureș from the Gypsy band leader Gheorghe Covaci, who said to have first heard it singing by Jews returning from Auschwitz. Dániel Hamar now told this story about it: “We played Hungarian folk music several times in London and Paris, and every time there sat in the front row an old gentleman – a great physicist –, who after every concert came to talk to us, sometimes in English and sometimes in French. It was in Paris that we also played some pieces collected in Maramureș, exactly Ani Maamini. Once again, the old man came up and thanked us – in a clear Hungarian, even if somewhat uncertainly and looking for the words. He said that in Auschwitz, at night in the barracks they rocked themselves to sleep by humming this song, and how great strength it gave to the survival.”
The concert could of course not finish without the title track of the disc, the most emblematic Hungarian Jewish folk song, The Rooster Is Crowing, which the audience sang along with the Muzsikás. The song was introduced by the Szatmár dances, collected in the same region, and the encore piece was the opening track of the disc, the Hasidic wedding dances from Maramureș.
The Rooster Is Crowing, Szatmár dances, and Hasidic wedding dances from Maramureș
The most beautiful music is of course always the one you fail to record. Shortly after the beginning, Mihály Sipos and Dániel Hamar performed on viola and gardon a piece collected in Gyimes, a rubato melody, which, as they told, works ancient Jewish and other Oriental motifs into the already archaic Gyimes music. The previous recordings might help you to imagine what a power this melody had, if I say that it was the most amazing piece of the concert. After the show I asked Mihály Sipos whether it is included in one of their albums, but unfortunately not: this one is only performed by them on concerts. I hope that I would have the opportunity to hear it again and present it to you.