Barbu the Fiddler

Barbu Lăutaru (Vasile Barbu, 1780-1860, known as Barbu the Fiddler), was a legendary singer and cobza player, member of an old family of musicians. Staroste (chief of the guild) of fiddlers in Moldova for 40 years, Barbu the Fiddler was one of those great Romanian folk singers who, through the creation and interpretation, contributed to the formation and enrichment of lăutăresc popular music style. He aroused the admiration of Franz Liszt on the occasion of its passage through Moldova, in the winter of 1847 in Iaşi. The French weekly La Vie Parisienne reported that, during the visit, Barbu Lăutaru reproduced perfectly one of Franz Liszt's improvisations at a first audition, when the Hungarian composer was the host of the writer Vasile Alecsandri. It is said that Franz Liszt said: "You are a greater musician than me!"

Taraf of Ochi-Albi, 1860, Carol Popp de Szathmary (from Wikipedia)

The Romanian word Lăutar denotes a class of traditional musicians. Most often, and by tradition, Lăutari are members of a professional clan of Romani musicians (Gypsies), also called Ţigani lăutari. The term is derived from Lăută, the name of a string instrument similar to a Lute. Lăutari usually perform in a band called Taraf. Originally, the word was used only from those that played the lăută. The other were named from their instruments, too, such as: scripcar (violin player), cobzar (cobza player), and naigiu (nai/panflute player). From the 17th century, the word lăutar was used regardless of the instrument that was played. The lăutărească music is complex and elaborated, with dense harmonies and refined ornamentation, and its execution requires a good technique. The lăutari drew inspiration from all the musics they had contact with: the pastoral music of Romania, the Byzantine music played in the church, as well as foreign music, most notably Turkish, but also Russian and Western European. Another distinction should be made between the lăutărească music played by lăutari and the Romanian peasant music. A more proper name for someone who plays peasant music is that of rapsod.

One of the most popular Romanian folk tunes is the Ballad of Barbu Lăutaru. You can listen it in several versions (folklore, jazz, rock...). It worth a try!

Fănică Luca - Eu sunt Barbu Lăutaru (historical recording)


Ion Luican - Eu sunt Barbu Lăutaru (traditional)


Ion Ghiţulescu - Barbu Lăutaru (traditional)


Emy Dragoi & Jazz Hot Club Romania - Barbu Lăutaru (jazz)


Marius Mihalache feat. Teodora Enache - Barbu Lăutaru (ethno-jazz)


Gheorghe Zamfir - Barbu Lăutaru (instrumental, panpipe)


Phoenix feat. Gheorghe Zamfir - Barbu Lăutaru (rock)

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