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From Hungarian Soul to Houston Symphony: Classical Violinist Ferenc Illyeni Cuts Loose and Captures THE GYPSY DREAM

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Related: Ferenc Illyeni, The Gypsy Dream
From Hungarian Soul to Houston Symphony: Classical Violinist Ferenc Illyeni Cuts Loose and Captures THE GYPSY DREAM

A melody with a wicked glint that sets the pulses racing...a single note that captures and age of heartbreak and sorrow...Gypsy music is unmistakeable. The violin soars and dances, playful and inviting, then turns to a sweet, loving ache. It's pure passion, and that is what Hungarian-born violinist Ferenc Illenyi (pronounced "Fair-ense") mines on his album Gypsy Dream (Mesa/Bluemoon Records; Release:March 11, 2014).

A first violinist in the Houston Symphony Orchestra, Illenyi is a lauded figure in the classical world. But on this recording, he delves into his past, to the music that lives inside his soul.

"I was classically trained," he explains. "That was my education, but growing up in Hungary, Gypsy music is there in your soul, subliminally. With classical music you do as you are told, you play what's in the score. Gypsy music is so much freer, people take and add their own parts to the melody."

Gypsy Dream is Illenyi's opportunity to dive deep into the music and explore all the varied facets of Gypsy music, from the old melody "Ando Beco" through the jazz of "A Minor Swing" to the demanding flamenco that's "Boabdit, Bulerias."

"The flamenco nearly killed me," Illenyi laughs. "The rhythm is so different. Erich Avinger, the guitar player and arranger, suggested it. I learned it through headphones and I love it, in part because it was so hard for me to capture. Flamenco is really music for guitar, not violin, and that made it so much more difficult - but intimately, very rewarding."

In addition to Avinger, Illenyi is accompanied by pianist Andrew Leinhard who mostly plays jazz and who Illeny calls "an incredible musician". Bassist Chris Maresh, is also in the line-up. "Chris has a very thick sound, wonderful rhythm, and he always lags just behind the beat in that perfect way," says Illenyi. Violinist Zeljko Pavlovic, director of the Vivaldi Music Academy, also appears on the CD in "Ando Beco" and "Oblivion."

This exceptional group of players turns Kreisler's "Gypsy Caprice" into something that swings hard. The violin flies over the melody in breathtaking fashion, highlighting Illenyi's virtuosic technique and his organic feel for this kind of music. Illenyi's exceptional gift is unmistakably apparent in "The Birds of Santa Maria Novella," where his violin echoes the flight of the birds with virtuosic swoops and dives.

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