Muzsikas are one of the most adventurous folk bands in Europe.
Formed in Hungary in the Soviet era, they first became successful in the UK in the 80s, thanks to their recordings for Joe Boyd’s Hannibal label. This two-album retrospective, compiled by Boyd and including unreleased material, is a reminder of why they are special. Their starting point may be Hungarian dance tunes, played with energy and elegance on violins, dulcimer or bass, but their range is remarkable. They are multi-instrumentalists who can switch to ballads and laments, adding in bagpipes, bouzouki, flutes, wailing Turkish horns, blues harp or even a twanging virtuoso duet on duelling mouth harps. They also include a Bartok composition – an energetic treatment of Violin Duo No 32, with guitar and percussion joining in – and play alongside the Danubia Symphony Orchestra.
Many of the best tracks feature their equally versatile singer Marta Sebestyen, who can switch from the racous, flute-driven My Sweet Gregory to the title track, which has the grandeur of a classic Celtic ballad. Recorded in 1986, it still sounds exquisite.