Speaking recently from his home in Budapest, Balogh said that his Ark show on Thursday, March 25, while including some traditional folk and authentic cigány (Hungarian for Gypsy) tunes, is mostly "city entertainment." "Think of it like jazz," he said, where musicians use songs for improvisation and displays of technical brilliance — a Transylvanian folk tune with a bossa nova rhythm, a Romanian hora that medleys into a spoof of a 1950s rock 'n' roll tune, the Ellington jazz standard "Caravan" played Gypsy style, or that warhorse of every Gypsy band, Monti's Csárdás — which Balogh's band takes at an even faster, string-singeing speed than you usually hear. "Each musician in the band is a virtuoso in his own right," says Balogh. The band's virtuosity is especially evident on "The Lark," a Romanian showpiece on which Balogh's mallets fly faster than a hummingbird's wings while his violinist creates the sounds of a whole forest of birds.
Balogh's orchestra, accompanied by the Budapest Ensemble folk dance troupe, also performs at EMU on Friday, March 19.
[Originally published in March, 2004.]