Toni Iordache (December 17, 1942 – February 1988) was a Romani-Romanian lăutar and one of the most famous cimbalom (Romanian: ţambal) players in the world. He was nicknamed the God of the Cimbalom and Paganini of the cimbalom.
Toni was born in the Bâldana village, near Bucharest, and began learning the instrument from his father when he was four. Some years later his family would move to Bucharest in the Herăstrău neighbourhood, where many famous lăutari lived. There, Toni continued to learn from Mitică Ciuciu, who was a famous cimbalom player in his days.
At 12, he was employed at the National Radio Orchestra of Popular Music. Later, he would become a member of the Ciocârlia National Ensemble, the primary popular ensemble in the country. With the Ciocârlia Ensemble, Toni Iordache would tour the world: many European countries, the USA and also Asian countries. In between tours, he would play at weddings, being the most sought after lăutar of his days. Often, after landing at the airport he would drove directly to a wedding where the other musicians were waiting for him.
He won two gold medals: in Vienna(1959) and Sofia (1966) and appeared as guest soloist in Zoltan Kodaly's 'Hary János Suite' performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra, in Tokyo, in 1973.
Among others, he played with Romica Puceanu, Gabi Luncă, Ion Onoriu, Ionică Minune and also with the well-known pan flute (nai) player Gheorghe Zamfir.
Although he played a lot of the "popular" music that was promoted by the communist regime, Toni Iordache remained known among aficionados especially for his work as a lăutar. His solos were very complex, but also clear and beautiful and his improvisations were full of imagination. He was not only a very virtuoso player (he was measured in Paris to be able to play 25 notes per second), but also a very sophisticated one, with a high emphasis on touché, playing the slow pieces with great sensibility. He was able to play two melodic lines simultaneous at high tempos and knew how to use the full capacities of the cimbalom.
Here's "Hora de la Bolintin" from above album.
In early seventies Toni Iordache was arrested for possession of foreign currency, which was strictly forbidden in communist Romania. He reportedly wanted to buy a fur coat for his wife with it. Despite his high popularity and interventions in his favour he was sentenced to three years in jail. His imprisonment was kept undisclosed to the press, only his friends knew. During his time in jail he lost greatly in weight. After his release it was obvious that he would not have much time before he was lost to the world.
Toni Iordache died in 1988, from complications due to diabetes. Two hours after having his leg amputated in surgery he died in the recovery room. His friend and fellow musician Costel Vasilescu (also known as Costel Trompetistu') took care of the funeral.
In preparation for the eventuality of his death, he taught his son and his grandson his arrangements and his techniques. Today if you were to go to Bucharest, you could find his son and grandson playing the music of their elder and keeping the heritage of Toni Iordache alive. (Info mainly Wikipedia)