Ever since Taraf de Haïdouks burst out of Romania in the early 1990s, the 12-strong band of Gypsy lautari and their exuberant brand of traditional music has been a fixture on the world’s stages. But, rather than being ‘just’ another album of flamboyant tunes for accordions, violins and cimbaloms (this time with the Haïdouks’ first-ever female player, Virginica Dumitru), *Maskarada* is an album with a much-needed twist: re-Gypsification.
This may sound like a postmodern gimmick, but it’s not. Well aware that there is a long history of composers importing ‘Gypsy’ music into the classical tradition, the Haïdouks have used much of *Maskarada* to bring the music home. It’s an astoundingly original idea and it’s one that poses an intriguing dynamic. Bartok, de Falla and Khachaturian all succumb to the re-Gypsification treatment with a good grace that doesn’t result in some strange hybrid of orchestral sugariness and cod virtuosity. The band’s re-reinterpretation of the Romanian Folk dances that Bartok adapted have here a sombre, drunken elegance more suited to village square than concert hall. On *Maskarada*, the tunes are reunited with their original purpose. The tunes in ‘Suite Maskarada’, the finale, are very much of the Haïdouks’ creation, but they have a playful relationship to the album’s mission of de-classicalization, as the themes turn from formal statement to improvisational flourish. To say that that this album represented the return of the repressed would not be too far from the truth.