Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Virtuoso Performance - The Gipsy Sentimento Paganini Ensemble

The first afternoon concert of the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music was held this afternoon in one of the most delightful venues in Fez. The Batha Museum performance area, with the small stage overshadowed by a magnificent and ancient barbary oak, was packed to capacity. The concert on offer was a performance by the Gipsy Sentimento Paganini Ensemble from Hungary.


The ensemble comprises three violinists, a clarinet player and double bass. The director of the group, Gyuszia Horváth, is a remarkably versatile violinist, though given the music he plays, the term "fiddler" may be more appropriate.

Horvath played his violin so enthusiastically he broke a string and at one point theatrically threw the bow away and played an entire song pizzicato (plucking the strings with his fingers). But he didn’t hog the limelight – members of the ensemble had a chance to show off their talents, with Horvath exclaiming “maestro!” after one particularly accomplished jig on the violin.

The musician’s choice to wear a striking range of pink ties was a clue to the humour that infused the performance, and this was confirmed during one of the last songs. After making their violins sound like tweeting birds (and searching for the source of the sound in the spreading boughs of the tree above) Horvath invited a small girl onto the stage and helped her to play the sound of an ambulance.

Romungro Magic - Gyuszia Horváth
While his fiery virtuosity is remarkable and his pizzicato playing lightning fast, it is his dips into minor key melancholia that enchant. His ability to tear at the heart with a slow and aching accuracy is transporting. The notes, almost whispered, rose and vanished into the air, leaving imagined sound that hung there until the next tug at the heart was delivered, with the flair of an artist and the skill of a surgeon. Remarkable.

Though some in the audience were unconvinced that the music was right for a sacred music festival, in the end it was all joy and clapping as the ensemble flew through the final numbers. Dancing too, not only in the crowd but also, delightfully, on stage. Gipsy Sentimento Paganini Ensemble and Gyuszia Horvath brought out the Gypsy in all of us.

The Romungro

Ever since their first migrations towards the West well before the year 1000, the Gipsies of ancient India have contributed to our cultural life in a multitude of ways.

Although dismissed as scapegoats in our sedentary world, subjected to the most uncivilised social rejection in literary and cinematic romanticism, they have followed their quest despite our technological and social upheavals and attempt in their own way to re-enchant the coldness of the world.

In fact, Gipsies constantly live a paradox: despite their refusal to integrate, they have become the often exclusive repositories and a faithful mirror of the culture of a country where, once upon a time, to be a professional musician was synonymous with shame.

Known as Romungro, the Romani of Hungary settled during the first migrations of the 15th century. It was these people who augmented the quality of the professional musicians of Budapest and the provincial towns by developing what became known as gipsy music. They became masters of the traditional Hungarian repertoire such as palotas, csardas and verbunkos, the most up-to-date musical styles that were also the classical sacred repertoire.

The Romungros, more integrated than other Romani communities, claim a true education and in the musical world, all studied in the most prestigious Hungarian conservatories after the fall of the aristocracy. Their great musical culture allowed them then to progress in their own way from the great classical repertoire (from Liszt to Bartók) to one that is still popular today, that of operettas. Thus they interpreted a wide range of music known as 'Gipsy' from Russia to Hungary and the Balkans.

Gyuszia Horváth, a superb violinist, is master of these repertoires. He comes from a prestigious line of professional musicians of the name Horváth, faithful protagonists of this great tradition.


Festival Programme
Festival in the City
Sufi Nights
Festival Forums
Festival Eating Guide
Art during the Festival #1
Art during the Festival #2
The Enchanted Gardens of Fez
Last Minute Accommodation

Text contributors: Vanessa Bonnin, Sandy McCutcheon
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke and Vanessa Bonnin

The View from Fez is an official Media Partner of the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music


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