Harmonia - Hidden Legacy
...Hauntingly beautiful, guaranteed to inspire. This newest CD from Harmonia, "Hidden Legacy," is as perfect as their first CD, entitled simply "Harmonia." Nine years in the making, it was worth waiting for. These guys are topnotch musicians; when world-class orchestras need folk music, Harmonia members are who they turn to. Equally at home on the stage helping the Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, or at Carnegie Hall, they are also intimately familiar with the common everyday life events of Eastern European immigrant communities all across the United States, from Queens to Buffalo, Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Chicago to Detroit, Berkeley to Seattle. They can play elegant debutante balls, lavish weddings, international festivals, working-class funerals, and everything in between. The music on the newest CD reflects this extensive experience.
Anyone who has Czech, Polish, Romanian, Ukranian, Slovak, Hungarian, Serbian, or Croatian ancestry will immediately recognize the folk music of their ancestors, and listening to this music will touch unconsciously deep emotional parts of your soul. Those without Eastern European roots will simply enjoy the music, marveling at the musical virtuosity and technical excellence; the recording, mixing, and engineering are flawless. I don't know much about the cimbalom, or the various flutes, but I do know that the tonal variety and speed of some of the pieces is absolutely phenomenal. The medium-paced tracks are pleasant, the slow pieces will move you to tears, and the fast pieces are not just incredibly fast, but will immediately get your foot tapping and your entire being will want to jump up and start dancing. Health warning: listening to this CD makes you want to eat pierogies or goulash and drink Slivovica.
As the program notes say, "Drive down the right street in a metropolis like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or Chicago, in former steel towns like Youngstown or Lorain, OH, and you're likely to miss it. But stop in front of a simple hall or church, open a nondescript door and go down the steps, suddenly you're in another, unexpectedly rich world, a party that transports you to a village in rural Ukraine, a cafe in Croatia, or a black-tie ball in 1930's Budapest."
Speaking of which, the program notes are simple and clear, much shorter than the program notes on the original 2003 "Harmonia" CD, which had such extensive and interesting program notes that they are worthy of publication in a serious ethnography journal. Great insights on heritage communities in the United States, on folk music and its powerful cohesive effect on social groups, and on the redeeming effects of immigration to America on Balkan conflicts...
But the music is the key, both on the original CD (also worth listening to, and buying to support the artists), and on this newest "Hidden Legacy" CD. The hauntingly beautiful vocals by Beata, the truly amazing flute work by Andrei and Brano, superfast cimbalom playing by Alexander, and if I didn't know it was Steve and Jozef playing the violin, I would've thought I was listening to a Gypsy master from a remote Carpathian village. And Walt is the glue who holds the entire thing together. Very professional, excellent individuals playing together, all from different countries and ethnic backgrounds, listening to this CD gives me hope for world peace. Perfect music for a long car drive, a summer backyard campfire, a fall Saturday cleaning the garage, or a quiet winter evening next to a crackling fire, when you can truly appreciate its every intimate detail.