Muzsikás, with a career that spans nearly 40 years, is the most renowned and popular
Hungarian folk-music ensemble in its home country and throughout the world. Due to its
distinctive musical skills, instrumental knowledge, and musical versatility, it has
collaborated with noted musicians and ensembles, from folk and world music to classical,
jazz, and alternative rock. Muzsikás has toured to nearly every European country, North
America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Its performances
at famed festivals and prestigious concert halls include the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican
Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Théâtre de la Ville, Cité de la musique, Rome's Santa Cecilia
Academy, and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw.
As the first Hungarian folk ensemble acknowledged by the classical-music world, Muzsikás
combines traditional music with the classical compositions of Bartók, Kodály, Kurtág, and
Ligeti. The group's efforts to blend 20th-century Hungarian classical and traditional
Hungarian folk music have saved the heritage of Béla Bartók, the greatest Hungarian
composer and collector of traditional music, for future generations. Its musical
collaborators include soloists, string quartets, choirs, symphonic orchestras, and folk
musicians and ensembles. Its longtime partner was the female folk vocalistMárta Sebestyén.
Muzsikás's music appears in Oscar-winning director Costa-Gavras's Music Box, the
film that also received first prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1989, and
in Dancing Room, a contemporary dance piece that was performed in England and
filmed by the BBC. Among its various prizes, Muzsikás was honored with the Kossuth Prize
(the most respected Hungarian State award for artists), the Prima Primissima Award, and the
2008 WOMEX Award for World Music.
Muzsikás takes its name from the word given to musicians playing traditional folk music in
Hungarian villages. Its performances transport audiences back to the remote Hungarian
village atmosphere where traditions survived through the centuries. Members of the group
play and improvise in the style of the old traditional Hungarian folk bands in which the
solo violin and song typically were accompanied by the three-stringed viola and the
contrabass. Its traditional arrangements of authentic Hungarian folk music are typical of
the best village musicians. Its folk music of Hungary is composed of beautiful melodies
that Bartók considered to be equal with the greatest works of music.
Mihály Sipos, born in 1948 in Budapest, grew up in a musical environment. His paternal
ancestors were shepherds; his grandmother knew old songs and dances. His maternal
grandfather was a great singer and lover of classical music, who also provided the young
Sipos with his first violin. Sipos's mother learned piano at the Liszt Academy of Music. He
became a pupil at one of the famous music schools established by Zoltán Kodály, where he
started to play the violin at the age of seven. He studied the classical violin for 11
years. Involved in traditional music since 1972, he founded Muzsikás in 1973 with his
friends Dániel Hamar and Sándor Csoóri, and became the primás (first violinist) of
the band. He is the artistic director of most of the ensemble's concerts and recordings,
and is the coordinator between Muzsikás and guest classical musicians.
László Porteleki, born in Budapest, grew up in the little Transdanubian village of Ozora,
where his grandfather was a village musician playing citera (zither). As a child,
Porteleki learned the citera and played together with his grandfather at different
village feasts. When he was 12, his family moved to Budapest, where he started learning the
classical violin. He regularly visited the Muzsikás tanchez (dance house) and
became interested in traditional music. He formed his first group in 1975 and a year later
founded the folk ensemble Téka, where he was the violinist and the solo singer. Téka
recorded four albums and became one of the most popular tanchaz clubs in Budapest.
Porteleki collected folk music for the Academy of Science of Hungary and played together
with the local folk musicians, whom he regards as his musical masters. He left Téka in 1991
and became a musician in the Honvéd Art Ensemble. In 1996, he joined Muzsikás.
Péter Éri, born in 1953 in Budapest, won the first prize of a dance competition at the age
of 10 with the Lads's Dance of Kalotaszeg, accompanied by his schoolmate András Schiff. His
stepfather Dr. György Martin, the famous ethnographer, brought the young Éri on trips in
which he collected the Hungarian traditional dances and instrumental music; it was on these
trips that Éri made his first connections with living musical and dance traditions. When
Éri was 14, he became a dancer with the Bartók Dance Ensemble, where he was active for six
years. He became the bass player of the first Hungarian revival band, the Sebő Group, which
featured Márta Sebestyén as its singer. When Muzsikás was formed in 1973, Éri became the
guest musician of the band; in 1978, he became a member. Éri graduated from the Eötvös
University of Budapest as an ethnographer and philologist of Romanian language and
Dániel Hamar, born in 1951 in Budapest, began playing the piano when he was seven and took
up the classical bass at 15. He became a member of the Symphony Orchestra of St. Stephan
Grammar School; although this orchestra was considered to be an amateur one, the best
Hungarian soloists and conductors performed with it, and many of its young musicians became
professionals. Hamar started to play traditional Hungarian music when he was 22. He visited
remote Hungarian villages to learn the old techniques of playing, and established Muzsikás
with his friends Sándor Csoóri and Mihály Sipos in 1973. He is the spokesman for Muzsikás
and the official leader of the band. Hamar graduated as a geophysicist from the Eötvös
University in 1974 and earned a Ph.D. in 1994. He is a senior research fellow at the Space
Research Group of Eötvös University.
Mária Petrás was born in a small Csángó Hungarian village of Diószén in Romania, in the
region of Moldavia. She spent her early childhood there, before moving to the village of
Klézse. She grew up in an undisturbed, natural surrounding, where she learned all the
traditional songs, ballads, and Gregorian songs of the Latin-language mass of the Csángós.
Her way of singing is an extraordinary example of the rich, colorful style of the best
village singers that captivated folklorists and musicians, including Béla Bartók. Today,
she is regarded as a master of the Hungarian folk revival. Since 1990, she has lived in
Hungary, where she graduated as a ceramicist and sculptor. Her works regularly appear in
famous European art exhibitions. As a singer, she performs as a soloist or with music
groups such as Muzsikás, with which she performed in Hungary, Belgium, France, Holland,
Japan, and recently in the UK during the Infernal Dance concert series organized
by London's Philharmonia Orchestra.