Taraf de Haïdouks

Maskarada

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You might expect a Balkan Gypsy dance band to do any number of things -- but tackle a classical program is probably not one of them. Still, the pieces that Taraf de Haïdouks have selected for this album are pretty logical when you think about it, and sound startlingly natural when you actually sit down and listen: Aram Khachaturian's "Lezghinka" sounds perfectly at home in this setting (cimbalon, accordion, clarinet, violins, etc.) and so -- surprisingly enough -- does Isaac Albéniz's "Asturias." But best of all is the group's interpretation of Béla Bartók's "Romanian Folk Dances," performed here in a style that the notoriously picky and tradition-minded Bartók would surely have loved. The temptation is to regard a group like this as merely raucous and fun -- but listen closely and you'll notice a couple of things: first, they play impeccably in tune for a band that tends to play mostly for dances. Second, their arrangements are not just good-time approximations of classical melodies, but carefully orchestrated and virtuosically played settings of pieces that were quite complex to begin with. Whether you sit and listen to it with headphones on or turn up the stereo and reel around the living room with your sweetie, you'll be sure to enjoy this fascinating album.

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