Notes and Editorial Reviews
A really splendid and winningly performed recital. Bosch now has a select but alpha level discography to his name.
THE HUNGARIAN DOUBLE BASS
Leon Bosch (db); Sung-Suk Kang (pn)
MERIDIAN CDE 84597 (66:55)
La Lugubre Gondola.
This is the fifth recital disc issued by double bassist Leon Bosch on Meridian. The four previous CDs were titled
The British Double Bass, The Russian Double Bass
, and two devoted entirely to music of the 19th-century double bassist Giovanni Bottesini,
The Virtuoso Double Bass.
Steven E. Ritter reviewed the second Bottesini disc in
34:2 and praised Bosch’s playing as “superb.” I will second that motion. No one need fear hearing an hour of scratchy sawing
the opening solo to the slow movement of Mahler’s First Symphony; Bosch has a lovely, rich, glowing tone and technique to equal any virtuoso cellist. He also has a special connection to this repertoire; although born, raised, and trained in South Africa, one of his teachers there was the Hungarian double bassist Zoltán Kovats, to whom the disc is dedicated. Bosch was obviously an apt pupil, for these performances are utterly idiomatic in their rhythmic inflections and melodic contours. Pianist Sung-Suk Kang provides
Three of the works offered here are transcriptions or adaptations. The Adagio of Zoltán Kodály is originally for viola; Liszt’s
La Lugubre Gondola
was arranged by Bosch from the piano original; Bartók’s Sonatina is twice removed from the piano original, being a transcription for double bass of a transcription for violin and piano by André Gertler. The remaining works, by Jenö Takács (1902–2005), Pál Járdányi (1920–66), Ferenc Farkas (1905–2000), Elisabeth Eszlary (b.1917), and the brothers Lajos Montag (1906–97) and Vilmos Montag (1908–91), are originals for double bass. The Bartók, Farkas, and Eszlary sonatinas are all three-movement works in the standard fast-slow-fast sequence; the Kodály
are seven songs adapted as technical studies; the other works all consist of one movement, the longest (at 14:00) being that of Takács. Virtually all of these compositions are thoroughly grounded in Hungarian folk music; they are without exception engagingly tuneful and straightforward in structure.
The recorded sound is clean and clear, and the two performers are well balanced. Booklet notes are detailed and informative; however, there are several frustrating inconsistencies in the spelling of titles. On the back tray card, the respective titles of works by Kodály, Montag, Takács, and Farkas are given as
Epigrams, Extrême, Alte ungarische Hofballmusik
; in the booklet they are given as
Epigramme, Extreme, Altungarische Hofballmusik
. I have used here the versions on the tray card except for the Takács piece, where the booklet version is clearly the correct one. While this disc may appear to be offbeat and esoteric, it should provide pleasure to anyone who enjoys music for a solo stringed instrument and piano. Warmly recommended.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Leon Bosch continues his globe-trotting trek with this Hungarian disc, one that satisfies on a number of levels. The repertoire is cleverly chosen, the transcribed material works extremely effectively, and, as before, Bosch’s sonority, his legato eloquence, and timbral subtlety, ensure that everything comes alive with great immediacy. Add to that, too, a fine rapport with the excellent Sung-Suk Kang, and you have another winning recital.
Kodály wrote his Adagio for viola and piano in 1906 though it has since been happily appropriated by violinists and cellists, and now bassists. The rippling piano writing supports the meditative bass line, full of lyrical variation and considerable warmth. The composer encouraged bassists to use seven of his nine
Epigrams (properly Epigramme), a solution taken up by Bosch. These student character studies are all very brief and concentrated, full of deft harmonies and – in the case of the fifth - hinting at folkloric, here cimbalom, influence.
Lajos Montag was a long-time teacher of the bass in Budapest and a hugely influential figure. His
Extrême has plenty of virtuosic demands, taking the bass quite high, and also vesting the line with yearning intensity – all of which challenges, needless to say, Bosch surmounts with great control. Lajos’s younger brother, Vilmos Montag, is represented by
Silhouette, a perky opus again infused with folklore and brio. Bosch has arranged Liszt’s
La Lugubre Gondola, and he well captures its agitation and sense of sepulchral foreboding. It was the violinist André Gertler who transcribed Bartók’s Sonatina which Bosch has then transcribed for bass. Here the bagpipe motifs are pleasingly audible and this early piece has plenty of lively and exciting writing.
Jenö Takács is/was a pianist and composer who lived to a venerable age; is he still alive? His 100
th birthday was celebrated with two hundred concerts of his music in Eisenstadt, near to where he was born. His
Alte Ungarische Hofballmusik was written in 1985. This stately piece moves from Hungarian Dance influence to more mobile and harmonically modernised writing as the work develops. But both its plangency and its exciting contrasts remain securely tenured to the dictates of appealing to its audience, which it does with great accomplishment and no little style. Pal Járdányi’s Melody owes quite a bit to Debussy, whilst Ferenc Farkas’s
Népdalszonatina of 1958 evokes Hungarian children’s songs. Don’t overlook Elisabeth Eszlary’s Sonatina with its old fashioned character and excellent dance themes in the brief finale.
So a really splendid and winningly performed recital. Bosch now has a select but alpha level discography to his name.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Epigrams by Zoltán Kodály
Leon Bosch (Double Bass),
Sung-Suk Kang (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1954; Hungary
Melody, for cello & piano by Pál Járdányi
Leon Bosch (Double Bass),
Sung-Suk Kang (Piano)
Length: 4 Minutes 14 Secs.
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