Review: Tcha Limberger's Kalotaszeg Trio at the Quecumbar

Victor Berki, Rudolf Toni, Tcha Limberger

Tcha Limberger's Kalotaszeg Trio
(Quecumber Battersea.First night of five-date UK tour. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

When I interviewed the blind Belgian-born violinist Tcha Limberger back in 2009 I came to the conclusion (which you can take or leave): "He must be the ultimate one-man embodiment of many of the cultural and linguistic cross-currents, oppositions and contradictions of continental Europe." I'd only heard him on record, and was keen to hear this particular project.

His range of influences is indeed varied. Limberger's father Vivi is a guitarist from the shinti tradition, but Tcha has gone his own a with his musical explorations and passions. From his teenage years a love of the violin (he also plays a range of other instruments - eg he has been rhythm guitarist in WASO) went hand-in-glove a sense of a calling to get close to, understand, absorb and play traditional Hungarian and Romanian music.

At the time I spoke to him back then, he was living in the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania (western Romania), working with musicians from the Hungarian and Roma traditions, absorbing their ways of playing, living within a rural community, where he found the musicians were particularly welcoming when he wanted to participate, and also enjoying being in a society where music still has its natural function.

Limberger is now living back in Belgium, but his deep involvement in the Kalotaszeg tradition has had an enduring effect. resulting in the fomation of the Kalotaszeg trio, in the recording of an album and in the current five-date UK tour of which this was the first night.

Limberger plays and sings wedding songs, laments (eg at the loss of girlhood associated with weddings) and love songs of the region, and the evening ratchets up towards a Czardas finale. I enjoyed the feeling that for all three players the music they make and the shifts from one section to another, music as natural as breathing. Limberger's singing has sincerity, authenticity  and musicality rather than beauty, but his violin playing is masterful. The other two musicians have the accompanying roles, but the bass playing of Victor Berki is muscular, positive, assertive, every bow-stroke has authority and heft. The traditional viola playing of Toni Rudolf, putting in constant double-stopped off-beats at insane speed, was an object lesson in how a one man rhythm section can inject the bounce of life into every beat.

After this 5-date tour, Limberger will be back in the UK next March for a longer tour with the Budapest Gypsy Orchestra , the London date of which is at the Union Chapel.

Sylvia Rushbrooke's Battersea haunt the Quecumbar, in a quiet street with free parking all around after 4.30, is a unique London institution. It's a friendly room for people to eat good-value brasserie food (here's how it works) and to listen to music. It has been voted somewhere as the most atmospheric and romantic place in London for a first date.

From the times I've been to the Quecumbar, silence during the music is respected and the bands definitely get listened to by an enthusiastic audience. Closer to jazz than the Kalotaszeg Trio, tradition/repertoire-oriented bands like Man Overboard and the Giacomo Smith / Pedro Segundo unit have been appreciated there - plenty of Youtube examples of both to prove that.  


Fri 22 Nov - Hull Jazz festival, Hull
Sat 23 Nov - 8pm St Ethelburgas, Bishopsgate LONDON
Sun 24 Nov - 8pm Heeley Institute, Sheffield
Mon 25 Nov - 8pm - Shrewsbury Coffee House


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