Music for strings

A dulcimer band typical of eastern Moravia and Slovakia

Slovak and Moravian String Music

        Belonging to the same continuum of small string ensemble music that stretches from Romanian Transylvania through Hungary, the Czech Republic and up to the Zakopane region of Southern Poland, the string band music of Slovakia and Moravia is unique and there are many treasures. I first came upon recordings of this music in the early 80s. I wanted to hear more and to learn more. I even began a study of the Slovak language. When I visited Slovakia in the mid 80s, still firmly under socialism, I learned that if I were permitted to enter Slovakia for research, I would most likely not be permitted to leave the city of Bratislava. This was not my idea of doing field work. My research in Romania in the late 70s was difficult for many reason, but as an officially invited foreign scholar I was permitted to travel. In Slovakia it was to be a different matter and I gave up. Later when things changed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, too many things changed. That same Socialist government that had so strongly supported folklore was now gone and with it the support. Folklore continued but no longer had the special status it did before, and what was considered folk music changed rapidly.

        It is for this reason that I am putting up these recordings of that music. I think the recordings in any form are no longer available and they reflect that unique and purer style of Slovak and Moravian folk music. Without the strong governmental support that existed in the bad old days, I doubt that they should become available again for quite a while.

Robert Garfias

 Jan Berky-Mrenica (Slovak)
        Popular and well recorded towards the end of the Socialist period, well rooted in folklore but with an arresting and contemporary interpretation of the Slovakian folklore

Ján Berky Mrenica
Primášov sen


01. Zajali, zajali
02. Prišli mi noviny, Z vrbiny cigáni
03. Keby moje nôžky, Poďme chlapci domov, Skliarovská, V Očovskom poli
04. Horou, chlapci horou
05. Hájiček, háj
06. Škovránok
07. Horela lipka
08. Svietila zornička, Kade idem, tade trniem
09. Sen primáša
10. Alebo ma vydávajte
11. Majerky, Čože ja, ako ja
12. Cigánska vášeň
13. Kolíbka deravá, Hore Detvou idem
14. Vrchárski sršni
15. Monti čardáš
16. Čardáše
17. Očová, Očová
18. Očovský tanec


 Ján Berky Mrenica
husľový virtuóz, skladateľ

* 11.05.1939 Očová
† 12.10.2008


"Slovaks have always been difficult to study, but the music, folklore and links of our ancestors raised the people of our country regardless of whether it was a Ruthenian, Slovak, Roma. It is important to realize that every person is equal. Because we are here on this earth for only a short visit. "


1956 - 1958 Vocational School, Department lzámočník Partizánske
1958 - 1962 time training at the State Conservatory in Bratislava violin with Professor Albína Vrteľa


Ján Berky was born as the third of five children. Since he could find wherever the water, especially like catching fish in the river, got Mrenica attribute. In an early age to become a motherless child. Just before the end of the war his mother was killed, after which he inherited musical talent. His first performances with spoons complement beautiful, tuneful singing was her.

Music from a young age saw as a gift. Even as a seven year old playing in the various kinds of jobs under the windows of the rich farmer in his hometown. The first came from a real violin poor vdovice with postscripts: "Janko on, here's violin from my late husband, play them and spomínaj on me for good."

In addition to heavy and joyless childhood dreamed a dream - to study violin because music is the meaning of life for him and helped him to forget the daily torment. Sen he met up later poor conditions at home because he was forced to go into teaching, which would have received free room and board. So he got into teaching in vocational schools in Partizánske. It just he was a master of training, which he liked. He knew that he longs for musical education, but mainly he wants to play the violin. Whenever I could, it relieve the grinder at work and vice, to conserve his clever fingers. He understood that those skilled huslistických fingers would be a shame.

The school started a music group, with whom he played at parties and performances for other schools. When music - as often said - touching heaven. As an exceptional talent tests done at the Bratislava Conservatory, which was later completed remotely. Love the music would not let him to stop his dream dream. Even when he returned home, where no one expected it, and in a modest house where 8 people lived.

Severe while it strengthened and consolidated it resolve, if that will ever have a family, his children may never feel this experience and will be returning home board. That his wish fulfilled.together with his wife Eva brought up three children, have been successfully applied in life. Anka oldest graduated from the Faculty of Arts with honors in currently working in the civil service. Music did not want to pay, said the family had enough musicians. Janko son is a violinist, plays violin in the orchestra Devil, founded by his father. The youngest daughter Evka ended conservatory and works in Vienna, where she married. A good and caring wife and mother, lived with him entire musical life.

Family, who was with her in the first place, sacrificed his music career. The desire to pursue opera singing folk songs and remained unfulfilled. Although successfully made the singer to audition SĽUK, but six months after marriage she became pregnant. So I did medical school and twenty-five years worked as a nurse in the crèche.

Excellent musician famous for his native Očová whole country and in 52 countries around the world a unique interpretations of popular songs. Served as concert master in Slovak Folk Art Ensemble 32 years and 100 days. He was always at every joke, but soon turned serious when it came to music. The trials did not recognize any humor, I perfectly prepared musician to a professional job and paid back to the music and put their heart.

Through his art got to know the artistic performances with instruments of musick faithful humanity in the world. In each country tried to visit especially school. He wondered what attention is paid to the education of children through culture that connects regardless of nationality and religion. Did not avoid any cultural institutions, all of your money - "diet" offered for active participation in cultural activities. Discovering unknown cultures and enriched it the wealth of feelings and memories still alive. On a concert tour in the country hocktorej tried to know the city itself and the people who will play, and the draw strength from their mood, city, country.

I recalled a concert tour of India in 1975, which passed SĽUK and folk music under his leadership. This country was for him to wonder of the world. In program were implemented in folk songs and classical music: eg. Solveginu song čardáš Monti, known by Dinicu larks in its treatment, Sabre Dance by A. Khachaturian, Pizzicato Polka by J. Strauss and many other songs. In the newspaper the next day after the show came out spectacular article that gave excellent SĽUK artistic performance in singing and dance component, but is particularly high esteem artist Indians - John Berky-Mrenica. In addition, there he met his longtime dream - playing on Stradivari. Lent him their primarius English Royal Quartet. This point was particularly happy.

Experienced more joyful moments. He fulfilled more dreams. During a concert tour snipe in 1970 had the opportunity to get to know the rich culture of the Soviet Union, which greatly acknowledged. Also the way the pole to America in 1964, then again in the same year, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1983, 1986 - but it with its folk music, led meant fulfilling his one big dream. During re-visit in 1970, received the violin from USA pastor, who will they donated with the words: "Janko, these instruments of musick waiting for the right player. It's you. Violins are the one who knows them rozcitlivieť, and you're my violin wizard. Are my father's violin. I have long cherished, but now you are. "Today it cherishes as one of the most precious gifts son John Berky-Mrenica ml. With this country, he also combines another very powerful experience - a duet with the legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong's Jazz Club on Broadway.

The year 1964 was a turning point in his life and artistic activities. After a tour in the U.S. bought a flat and get rid of financial debt. At 80-years concert featured the opening Slovakian restaurant in the Philippines. The offer came then ambassador to Czechoslovakia Philippines Miloš Krivda. The then Culture Minister Miroslav Valek recommended just SLUK folk music led John Berky-Mrenica.

The culmination of his creative genius was to create a top ensemble - violin orchestra Devil, with whom performed on stages at home and abroad and for which hitherto regulated composes a musical composition. It is the main creator of the folk repertoire of the orchestra. Although in 1997 due to health problems devilish violin fell silent in his administration, it warms the heart when the son took over after scepter. His speech is indeed different, what is natural is musically own vision, your own music before, but Gypsy song and music continue to spread. Devil violin musical ensemble is a top performer songs of various genres, and their repertoire is reflected in Slovak, Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, Jewish and Gypsy folklore, as evidenced by the firsts on Festival d'Europa Concordia Internazionale del Folklore Festival in Agrigento, Sicily, and the second International Festival of Polish Ciechocinek '98, gold record in 1999 for the album Gypsy Dance, 3x Grammy Award from the Slovak Academy of Music for Best Orchestra, Best Album and Best Artist. The orchestra has performed almost all over Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. Works with renowned singers and instrumentalists, such as L. White, D. Hulka, I. Csáková, S. Sklovská, P. Haber, K. Hasprová, brothers Dvorsky, M. Babjak, J. Fogašová, J. Burian, J. Bartos and under., In cooperation with the publishing house of Monitor-EMI released 8 albums. Recent "XXL Music" is the third solo achievement.

Despite the success and admiration in every aspect not taken even the most attractive offer to live in another country. He remained faithful to his country, his city, which is still lives in his native village Očová, in which the love back, because there is at home. Očová it is a matter of heart. Beloved and loving village made famous everywhere he went. He loved the common people, who always drew from the wisdom, honesty, lovely and warm relationship with folk songs. He knew that the people have Ocova innate sense of culture and can differentiate earned value...
read it all here (you might need the help of a translator)



ajnabi said...

Hey Miguel, thanks for the write up and the introduction to this music. I'm looking forward to exploring this sound. My son's good friend is from Slovakia!

Miguel said...


There is more to come!

Mi : )