"a musical gem" National Public Radio
"obscenely talented" Washington, DC Folklore Society
"Brilliant. Lush. Dazzling. Soulful." SingOut!
The sixth annual Washington Jewish Music Festival concluded on Wednesday evening with a celebratory concert that looked not forward but backward, to klezmer music's roots.
At the D.C. Jewish Community Center's Goldman Theater, the Cleveland-based band Harmonia spurred toe tapping and hand clapping with Eastern European folk music.
For more than an hour, Harmonia's virtuosic musicians spun through melodies and songs from Romania, Ukraine, Croatia and Slovakia.
Using various combinations of instruments -- violin, accordion, cimbalom (a 250-pound predecessor of the hammered dulcimer), flutes, string bass and voices -- Harmonia generated music ranging from the pastoral setting of a lonesome shepherd's flute tune to the rhythmic evocation of a rustic circle dance.
Alexander Fedoriouk hammered his trapezoidal cimbalom with impressive velocity, while Marko Dreher played his violin with songful passion. Andrei Pidkivka breezed through fast passages on a number of ethnic flutes, but he was most winning playing plaintive melodies on the nai, or pan flute, and the tylynka, a long, slender shepherd's flute with no finger holes.
Beata Begeniova sang with much spirit and spunk. Her cinnamon-flecked alto was as frolicsome in the Gypsy songs on the program as it was poignant in a traditional wedding song from eastern Slovakia.
Walt Mahovlich, who founded the ensemble in 1992, played his accordion sensitively and kept the audience well informed about the program's music.
The evening began with a rousing klezmer music performance by the Alexandria Kleztet.
-- GRACE JEAN
Music Of Eastern Europe
Traditional Crossroads CD4313
In the USA musicians have been getting together to play the music of their or their parents’ homeland since the days of the first settlers. Harmonia is a six-piece led by accordionist Walt Mahovlich, with Ukrainian cimbalist Alexander Fedoriouk, Andrei Pidkivka also from Ukraine on sopilka, tylynka and more, and Marko Dreher of Croatian musician parentage on rich-toned violin, viola and tamburica, over Adam Good’s double bass, with the splendid lead vocals of young Slovak Beata Begeniova. All leading players in their own right in the US and back home, their musicianship and ensemble sound are impeccably sensitive. Never going for hackneyed crowd-pleasers, their interesting material, well-described in the booklet notes, comes from the repertoires and collection of the band’s members. A particular gem is Begeniova’s singing of the slow Slovak wedding song for the bride’s leaving her parents’ home, Ej, V Komori Na Ladi.
-- ANDREW CRONSHAW
fRoots issue 253, 2004
"They kicked things off with a short but impressive set of Romanian Gypsy music,...allowing Marko Dreher's sweetly passionate violin to soar. Mahovlich wailed on clarinet...Things really got cooking when Fedoriouk took hammers to cimbalom. His fiery playing was jaw-droppingly fast, evoking gasps from the audience."
-- PEGGY J. LATKOVICH The Free Times Cleveland, Ohio
"The evening's theme was introduced by the Harmonia ensemble, which brought haunting resonance to music from a region that has suffered intolerable atrocities in recent months. The songs and instrumental pieces for violin, accordion and vocalist overflowed with bittersweet sentiments and proud, folkloric gestures. The musicians captured the heartfelt emotions with the directness of cabaret players performing for a select audience."
-- DONALD ROSENBERG, August 6, 1999 The Plain Dealer Cleveland, Ohio
The music of Harmonia is highly emotional, but not sappy. ...tells a story with notes instead of words. One can almost feel the air and forests and villages of the Carpathian mountains when hearing the musicians play."
-- MICHAEL DREXLER
"Driving, urban roots folk music.."
-- THE KNITTING FACTORY
"...passionate Hungarian folk music played by Harmonia..."
"Greatly enhancing the performance was the lively music provided by Harmonia..."
"...lusty gypsy music played by Harmonia,..outstanding. "
-- WILMA SALISBURY
"Harmonia...hypnotized the crowd with their dizzying violin solos and soulful ballads."
-- SCOTT LARSON
"Luckily, the day was saved by Harmonia...a fantastic group of instrumental musicians...Harmonia lived up to its name and played a set of beautiful and aesthetic pieces..."
-- THE OBSERVER
Harmonia is alive with traditional tunes of Europe
By HARVEY PEKAR
THE PLAIN DEALER, Cleveland, Ohio April 23, 1999
"Harmonia - a Cleveland band composed of musicians from Romania, Croatia, Ukraine and the United States - is out to prove that there's more going on in the area of Central and Eastern European music than polka.
"There's a great richness of musical forms between the Carpathians and the Danube and in the Balkan regions - the csardas, halgato, kolomyjka, doina, hora and invirtita, for example.... "
"...... the songs on the CD are traditional, but Harmonia members are not content to merely interpret older material. Fedoriouk has been writing original pieces for the band, most recently a composition entitled "Geamparale". It employs the 7/16 meter of a Romanian dance on top of which Fedoriouk has written an original melody and orchestrated it for six instruments. Now he's working on a piece that has a Balkan flavor, based on a particular scale, that will feature improvisation by several instruments. "I want to expand research in the old traditional music, but also to push the boundaries with new compositions and new arrangements', said Fedoriouk."
Read an article about Harmonia
SingOut! Magazine here.
Read an article about Harmonia "Harmonic convergence" as article here.