Okros Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Okros Ensemble

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OKROS ENSEMBLE

The Okros Ensemble isn't as well-known as Muzsikas, but it does straight-up traditional Hungarian folk music better and more faithfully than any other group of the sort. The string quintet--two violas, two violins, and an upright bass--is essentially a preservationist organization, learning its deep repertoire from old recordings and studying with master musicians like the marvelous Gypsy fiddler Sandor "Neti" Fodor, who performed with the group in Chicago in the fall of 1999. But there's nothing musty about its performances--the players' technical excellence is paralleled by their emotional facility on the wonderful Transylvanian Village Music (Rounder), where they perform Hungarian and Romanian dances and gripping Gypsy laments. While some of the harmonies may sound discordant to American ears, particularly the gorgeous microtones the violinists hit in their high-flying acrobatics, the music's intensity is infectious. Fodor isn't with the group on this tour, but in his place will be fiddler Aladar Csiszar, a 64-year-old master from the Szekelyfold region of Transylvania. Also on the roster are a young Hungarian folksinger and dancer, Agnes Herczku, and Kalman Balogh, the forward-looking master of the cimbalom, or Hungarian hammer dulcimer, whose album Gypsy Jazz (Rounder) found him as adept with Django Reinhardt-style swing, klezmer, and even bossa nova as he is with Hungarian folk material. Saturday, February 10, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

PETER MARGASAK

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