‘Szolnok’ is an album that was recorded with and traces in music the true story of the renowned Australian violinist Daniel Weltlinger’s grandfather’s violin from Szolnok, that was carried by foot from Hungary to France between 1920-1922. The violin was literally carried across the entire globe – from Budapest to Vienna to Marseilles to Casablanca to Sydney to Berlin – and the album consists of a mix of original material mixing jazz, classical, folk and free improvised music influences as well as songs that Weltlinger’s grandfather played on the violin. The Szolnok album follows the historical line of this instrument and it’s whereabouts until the present day, and represents a story about time, continuity and most importantly about moving forward. It is a story for the ages.
Daniel Weltlinger – violin
Uri Gincel – piano
Paul Kleber – bass
Mathias Ruppnig – drums & percussion
Tracks 1 – 11 recorded by Sebastian Ohmert at Blackbird Music Studio in Berlin on the 12th and 13th of February 2018.
Track 12 recorded to a Taschem DR-40 V2 recorder at Király utca 48 in Budapest, Hungary and on the banks of the Tisza river in Szolnok, Hungary on the 9th of March 2018.
Field recordings on Track 8 recorded in North Leura, Australia on the 8th of April 2018.
Field recording on Track 11 recorded in Wedding, Berlin on the 24th of March 2018.
Produced by Daniel Weltlinger.
Mixing by Sebastian Ohmert at Tonstudio Sonic-Impulse Berlin.
Mastering by Don Bartley at Benchmark Mastering.
Cover and booklet photos by Anton Tal at N-Tone Media.
Closeup photo of the back of the violin from Szolnok, pages 4-5 in booklet by LMNZ at worldwiderap.com
Band photo with my grandfather and the violin from Szolnok (centre left), pages 6-7 in booklet by unknown source
Photo of me playing the violin as a child with my grandfather playing the violin from Szolnok, page 16 in booklet by unknown source
Cover and booklet design: Simon Eskildsen
Daniel Weltlinger benefits from the support of BNP Paribas for the development
of his projects and would like to thank BNP Paribas Central Europe for their kind
generosity in funding this recording project. Daniel would particularly like to thank
Didier Mahout for his extremely generous support of Daniel’s work over the past
8 years culminating in the recording and production of this deeply personal and
historic album. All song arrangements and original compositions © Daniel Weltlinger 2018
1. Szolnok (Daniel Weltlinger) – 3:29
2. Ernő (Daniel Weltlinger) – 2:30
3. 1921 (Daniel Weltlinger) – 8:07
4. Bonjour, Bonsoir, Adieu Marseilles (Henri Albert) – 4:09
5. Le Chant des Partisans (Anna Marly) – 4:12
6. North Africa (Daniel Weltlinger) – 3:40
7. Barcarolle from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’ (Jacques Offenbach) – 3:42
8. Mr Fishman (Daniel Weltlinger) – 5:09
9. La Famille (Daniel Weltlinger) – 2:53
10. Tranquille à Sydney (Daniel Weltlinger) – 3:54
11. 2018 (Daniel Weltlinger) – 6:45
12. Estrellita (Manuel María Ponce) – 1:54
Szolnok, Hungary is where my grandfather was born in 1902. The violin used on this recording was made in Szolnok and has my grandfather’s initials (F.Z. – Fischmann, Zoltan) etched onto the back of the violin as well as the name of Szolnok etched onto the label inside the violin.
‘Ernő’ was my grandfather’s brother who was a violin virtuoso in the making who according to my grandfather’s story played the Brahms violin concerto at the Budapest Opera House in 1918 only to tragically die two days later from the Spanish flu virus that took the lives of some 55 million people during that time, after which my grandfather received the violin.
‘1921’ is set during the time my grandfather had already left a chaotic deeply unstable Hungary in the wake of the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, as well as the respective ‘Red’ and ‘White’ Terror. With two friends senza passport or papers, and with his violin, he walked by foot to Vienna in the final months of 1920 where in his words they saw a ‘Hitler rally’ and a huge poster of Hitler (it appears my grandfather probably saw Hitler or at least some of his supporters as there was a rally for several days in Vienna on the 8-9 October 1920.) This prompted them to flee across the borders of a pile of nations until they eventually reached France which was the only nation that would allow them in. The trip took almost two years and the daughter of one of his friends who he travelled with today lives in Genève, Switzerland.
‘Bonjour, Bonsoir, Adieu Marseilles’ by Henri Alibert alludes to the style of music my grandfather most probably played in cafe orchestras with the violin from Szolnok. Marseilles was the city where my grandfather settled for almost 20 years, and was where he worked as a semi professional musician and sculptor and completed his studies in engineering which became his main profession. He mixed with many people from the artistic scene in France and knew many well known artists and musicians who passed through including Edith Piaf. As long as I can remember he was always playing on the violin light Classical pieces and old folk songs very much in the style of the cafe orchestra musicians of this era.‘Le Chant Des Partisans’ and ‘North Africa’ represents the time during the Second World War when my grandfather fled the Vichy government in Marseilles and escaped across the Pyrenees to the border of France and Spain narrowly avoiding death at the hands of Francisco Franco’s forces. After being rescued from a jail in Algeria by the Red Cross he ended up as a chief of the French Resistance in North Africa, joined the British Eight Army in the North African and Italian campaigns, and quite possibly also liberated Paris along with Charles De Gaulle and the Free French Army. He ended up settling in Morocco in the years following the Second World War during which time he met my grandmother – his second wife – and my mother was born. He was also briefly reunited with his one remaining brother who had himself escaped two concentration camps and made his way to Morocco via Marseilles, and had a son who today lives in La Charité sur Loire in France and has 6 children. The remainder of my grandfather’s family by all accounts were killed in the Holocaust, and as with so many other Hungarian Jewish families most of the family disappeared with barely a trace. I don’t know whether the violin was stored in a safe house in Marseilles during this time (possible) or was stored in a safe house in North Africa (also possible) but he definitely had the violin with him in Casablanca before he, my grandmother and my mother emigrated to Australia during the uprisings against French rule that took place in Morocco during the mid 1950s. My grandmother’s sister lived in Sydney with her husband and no children and offered them safe passage all the way to Australia.
‘Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman’ is the song that my grandfather wooed my grandmother with before they were married, and this represents their relatively idyllic prosperous time in Morocco following the trauma of the Second World War as well as the time they ended up fleeing to Australia in around 1957.
‘Mr Fishman’ paints a portrait of a new life in Australia in which my grandfather anglicised his family name and lived a simple life with his wife and child and her relatives in Sydney, Australia. The field recording of Australian birds and wildlife at the beginning of the track is a timeless representation of the landscape of this far off land. My grandfather made friends with many people who had fled or immigrated to Australia from Europe. He worked as a taxi driver and in his later years started in earnest to read Classical music at the age of 76.
‘La Famille’ is a representation of me and my brother when we were young – my grandfather’s two grandchildren – and the innocent of childhood. It is a bittersweet, playful pizzicato melody conjuring the love and joy that my grandfather must have felt whenever he played his beloved instrument to his grandchildren born so far away from all the wars and conflicts that he had had to flee from or fight in.
‘Tranquille à Sydney’ describes the twilight years of my grandfather. He played the violin literally till the day he died at the age of 96, and after everything he had gone through in the end his reasoning for having moved to Australia as he clearly stated in an interview at the age of 93 was that he felt at peace and that Australia was ‘tranquille’. The main theme of this track alludes to the earlier track ‘Ernő’ which in the album as a theme represents the three brothers from the one family and personifies the violin from Szolnok.
‘2018’ is a reflection of the present and is thoroughly modern in conception combining thematic motifs from throughout the album most notably the main ‘walking’ riff from the 1921 track. It begins with a field recording of children playing outside and the sombre sound of church bells in the distance, in the district of Wedding where at the time of this recording I was living. I live today in Berlin and the violin from Szolnok is still going strong. The 2018 track is about the concept of continuation and moving forward from the past by living in the now, and for a better future today in the 21st century.
‘Estrellita’ is a song that I had completely forgotten about until I recently watched an interview that my grandfather did for the USC Shoah Foundation in 1996 when he was 93 going on 94 in which he described much of his life story in detail and played this song towards the end of the interview. This song more than any other he played absolutely all the time. The moment I heard this it triggered deep memories from the very beginning from when I first heard my grandfather playing violin, and it is a melody that I have deeply etched within my being. It is also absolutely a part of my story of how I was inspired and entranced by my grandfather’s violin playing from before I could even talk, which is a lot of the reason why and how I ended up being a musician today carrying forward the exact same dedication and love for music and life and certain ‘je ne ce quois’ that my grandfather always had. The track was recorded as a field recording both in Budapest near the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music where Ernő most likely had studied violin (quite possibly with Jenő Hubby), as well as in Szolnok along the banks of the Tisza river with the sounds of the birds and the landscape in the background from where the violin was originally from, bringing the remarkable story of this instrument to a full circle.