Folk music from the Eastern European nation of Hungary has been studied by ethnomusicologists for almost as long as ethnomusicology has been around. Composer Bela Bartok and music educator Zoltan Kodaly, both Hungarians, researched and recorded rural music from their homeland early in the 20th century. Even before these two musical giants gathered sounds, lessor known ethnologists and folklorists were recording Hungarian folk music on Edison cylinders late in the 19th century. In keeping with this tradition of rich documentation, Hongrie: Le Dernier Passage (Hungary: The Last Passage) presents 20 contemporary recordings of Hungarian folk songs and idioms. These tracks are not played by professional musicians or by students who learned the songs by way of a conservatory. Rather, this folk music is actually played by folk who are by day, for example, mechanics, electricians, and shepherds. Such musicians as Mihaly Barsony, Ferenc Sebo, and Pal Gusa perform tight jams on zithers, suites on a three stringed hurdy-gurdy, drone drenched recitals on sheep skin bagpipes, and serenades on violins. Other interesting instruments heard on this album include the furulya (a six hole wooden recorder), the toroksip (an oboe like reed instrument), the tambura (a long necked, small bodied lute), and the cymbalum (an oversized dulcimer). Of particular note is the next to last tack on the CD, "Ciganytanc." This Hungarian Gypsy song sounds as though it was recorded among an Appalachian based Hungarian splinter group. As the song progresses along, its peculiar hillbilly gestalt -- which is made all the more convincing by the slapping sounds of wooden spoons -- is morphed with Balinese Ketchak (monkey chant) and human beatbox aesthetics. All in all, Hongrie: Le Dernier Passage (Hungary: The Last Passage) stands as a solid contribution to the preservation and dissemination of Hungarian folk music recordings.
AllMusic Review by John Vallier