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Beethoven and more 2011 podcast #24: Balkan fireworks

October 7, 2011

Fanfare Ciocarlia have one goal: to get even the stodgiest grandmas out of their seats and dancing. The wind ensemble almost managed that during their concert at the Beethovenfest's "Liszt Night."

Fanfare Ciocarlia
Fanfare CiocarliaImage: Arne Reinhardt

Arrangement of the folk song "Suita a la Ciobanas"
Fanfare Ciocărlia
MP3 recorded on September 24, 2011 in the Beethoven Hall, Bonn by West German Radio (WDR)

The twelve members of Fanfare Ciocarlia come from a tiny village in Moldavia, home to around 80 Roma families and 400 people total. The name Ciocarlia means "lark," but their music is a far cry from a little bird's song. It's more like biting into an extremely hot pepper whose spiciness goes all the way down to your toes. The combination of clarinets, two alto saxophones, three trumpets, two bass tubas, percussion and a baritone and tenor horn leaves audiences breathless.

Traditional Romanian dances like the Sirba or Hora and folk songs clearly influenced by middle Eastern folklore create performance fireworks. But wild and dangerous men (so goes the reputation of the Usarii clan from which the players are descended), it is said, can also be gentle and restrained - such as when they sing the shepherd song "Suita a la Ciobanas."

Ever since they were discovered in 1996 by Henry Ernst, a German sound engineer touring in Romania, Fanfare Ciocarlia has been on their way to the top - on demand from Tokyo to New York, Milan to Helsinki. Along the way, the group has expanded its repertoire from local songs and dances to include jazz and swing.

A swaying stage, kicking feet and an audience eager for an encore are no rarities in performances by Fanfare Ciocarlia.

Author: Beatrice Warken / gsw
Editor: Rick Fulker