“La Passion” – Roby Lakatos & Ensemble – Live at the Sydney Opera House [TrackList follows] – Avanti Classic multichannel SACD 5414706104125 (2 discs), 77:07, 55:28 [Distr. by Allegro] (11/12/13) *****:

This is really only a sextet but they play up a storm that has the Aussies on the edges of their seats. Romani violinist Lakatos is a scorching virtuoso and is just as comfortable in jazz, classical and everything else as he is in his native Hungarian gypsy music. He also does all his own arrangements and leads his ensemble with great flair and showmanship, his violin often sounding almost offstage instead of front and center. Lakatos started out at the age of nine as first violin in a Romani band, the he later won first price for classical violin at the Bela Bartok Conservatory of Budapest. He’s collaborated with Stéphane Grappelli and Randy Becker, and is greatly admired by Sir Yehudi Menuhin.

In some of these 21 selections he reunites the classical works of composers such as Liszt and Brahms with Hungarian overtones with their gypsy roots.  He also does such unexpected numbers as Piazzolla’s glorious “Oblivion” in one of its best arrangements I’ve heard. His previous four albums for the Avanti Classic label have covered Prokofiev, Klezmer, and playing with his established jazz brother Tony as well as with Grappelli and Brecker. He makes corny classics such as “Vaya Con Dios” and “Ochi Chornyje” sound like you’re hearing them the first time.

Lakatos’ arrangements make his ensemble sound much larger than it really is. He is able to do everything with such flair that some have compared him to a 19-century performer who seems able to handle all this at once. Another writer observed that if Lakatos was paid on the basis of how many notes he played in performance, he would probably be the highest-paid musician in the world. And Avanti’s 5.1 hi-res surround captures the moment on the Sydney stage perfectly.  What a concert!


CD 1 =

1. New Alliance (Roby Lakatos) 07:14
2. Valse Triste (Ferenc Vecsey) 04:02
3. Polyushka Polye (O field, my field, Plaine, ma plaine -Trad.) 05:13
4. Oblivion (Ástor Piazzolla) 08:19
5. Stari Waltz (Isaak Osipovich Dunayevsky) – Csárdás Lunatique (George Boulanger) 07:59
6. Ne Na Na Na (Vaya Con Dios) 03:53
7. The Flight Of The Bumbeblee (Nikolaï Rimsky-Korsakov) 04:42
8. Chiquilin De Bachin (Ástor Piazzolla) 06:13
9. Dorogoi Dlinnoyu (Those Were the Days, Le temps des fleurs, Den langen Weg entlang – Boris Fomin) 04:08
10. Du Schwarzer Zigeuner(Karel Vacek) 03:48
11. SK Paraphrase (Roby Lakatos) 08:46
12. L’Alouette (The Lark : ‘contemporary sonata version’ – Grigora? Dinicu) 12:50

CD 2 =

1. Hungarian Dance no 5 (Johannes Brahms) 04:05
2. Fire Dance (J. Suha Balogh) 09:51
3. Honeysuckle Rose (Fats Waller) 08:43
4. Two Guitars (Deux Guitares – Trad.) 07:21
5. Papa Can You Hear Me (Michel Legrand) 05:11
6. Ochi Chornyje (Black Eyes, Les Yeux Noirs, Schwarzen Augen – Trad.) 04:49
7. Csárdás (Vittorio Monti) 05:33
8. Hora Di Marrakchi (A Night in Marrakech – Roby Lakatos) 04:11
9. Cuenta Conmigo (Luis Salinas) 05:44

—John Sunier