Transylvanian Folk Songs

Mendel Collective


Direction, Shooting, Post-Production

Transylvanian Folk Songs, a live concert film by Matyas Kelemen, produced by Mendel Collective with Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri, recorded at Insomnia Cafe on November 19th, 2022.

American violist Mat Maneri and Transylvanian expat pianist Lucian Ban are re-imagining LIVE at Insomnia the Béla Bartók Field Recordings of Romanian folk songs from Transylvania. The music was developed through the Retracing Bartok / Miraculous Song Residency in Timisoara in early fall 2022.

A decade since they started working together as a duo, Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri are renowned for their amalgamations of Transylvanian folk with improvisation, for their mining of 20th Century European classical music with jazz, and for their pursuit of a modern chamber jazz ideal. Their ECM Records album Transylvanian Concert was widely acclaimed for its original voice and unorthodox beauty and has spawned worldwide touring ever since.

Béla Bartók loved the folk music of Transylvania in western Romania. He famously experienced an epiphany in 1904 when he heard an 18-year-old woman singing songs from her Transylvanian village and was soon on the road in search of more music. Within a decade he transcribed over 3,400 melodies, recording hundreds of folk musicians on wax cylinders, and would call the completion of his research into Romanian folk music, as “my life’s goal”.

Retracing Bartok project is developed & curated by Jazz Updates for Timisoara 2023 European Capital of Culture and it debuted in 2018 when three outstanding improvisers, Mat Maneri, Lucian Ban, and the legendary John Surman, drew fresh inspiration from the music that fired Bartók’s imagination, looking again at carols, lamentations, love songs, dowry songs and more. Their album Transylvanian Folk Songs (Sunnyside Records 2020) was, as JazzTimes puts it, “as much an act of tribute as it is a transformation” and brought immediate acclaim from fans and critics alike. The album quickly ascended to Billboard and European Jazz Charts and NPR does a feature hailing the “Mystery and clarity that the trio brings to the Transylvanian Folk Songs”. Financial Times (UK) reviews glowingly the album and the German Deutschlandfunk Radio calls it a “magical event”. By year’s end, Transylvanian Folk Songs ends up on NPR 2020 Jazz Critics Poll, on Balkan World Music Charts, New York City Jazz Record BEST OF 2020, and more.

Lucian Ban & Mat Maneri have first worked together in 2009 on the multiple award-winning Enesco Re-Imagined octet, followed by a trio with European avant-garde icon Evan Parker (Sounding Tears), Mat’s own microtonal quartet DUST and are preparing now the release of Oedipe Redux their radical take on George Enescu’s Oedipe opera.