Songs & Dances from Slovakia

Urpin Folklore Ensemble

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Songs & Dances from Slovakia Review

by Kurt Keefner

The Urpin Folklore Ensemble has existed in Slovakia, the eastern half of the former Czechoslovakia, since 1957. They perform songs and dances in period costumes. Obviously, listeners get only the music on this disc. It is played by an orchestra of eight musicians: three on violin and one each on viola, accordion, cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), clarinet, and double bass. The vocals vary from a solo male to one of those "mysterious" (i.e., high-pitched without vibrato) female choruses. As with a lot of Eastern European music, many of the time signatures are unusual and the tempos are sometimes frenetic. Every single track is traditional. The slow to midtempo music is particularly noteworthy. "Dobry Vecer, Milá Moja" features an accordion and a tenor; it seems almost like a sentimental Irish song. "Od Lucenca" starts with a man singing solo in what sounds like a liturgical style. The orchestra enters piece by piece, building up the pace just slightly. The texture is gorgeous. While most listeners might wonder what the song is actually about, the music seems ideal for a patriotic hymn. Although it's a bit hokey or ear-piercing, it's a good disc for fans of music from that region.

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