Music to sail away on


THIS time of year is the "graveyard shift" for gig attendance, all disposable income having being disposed of, all the good cheer used up. Loyko's professionalism carried them through this night in spite of it, their reputation giving them an enviable, ordered audience. Sergei Erdenko on violin led in this terrific string ensemble, with Vadim Kulitzki on guitar and Oleg Ponomarev also on violin. Taking their cue from their mentor - the legendary, 19th century, Russian, gypsy fiddler, Loyko - they established their wild, virtuosi aura from the opening piece, barely pausing for breath and certainly not for introductions.

This band not only play with an easy, confident precision, they perform their music. Thus the fiddles were not only bowed but plucked and scraped, dug into and stroked, the guitar used melodically, rhythmically and as percussion.

Erdenko's sweeping bow became more than a device to release explosive music from his Pandora's box but applying and lifting in great sweeping, circular flourishes he becomes the ringmaster, the conductor, the magician. So too with the music: typically, as in the extrovert, humorous Moldova, one fiddle opens with a repeated rolled bow motif over all four strings, guitar joins in and sets up a textured background or urgent off beat. The second fiddle then enters dramatically, both men playing off each other spectacularly putting their frail instruments through a tonal spectrum from deep bass to the most delicate squeak.

All this is tastefully complemented by a central European vocal style in unison and harmony, stylistically from Russian folk to Gypsy popular. At times sentimental, again dazzlingly stirring, from a thin gadulka sound to a profoundly symphonic solidity, the trio expertly carried the listener just exactly the right distance in each mood. This is music to sail away on.