The recent spate of recordings of Jenö Hubay’s violin music might suggest a centennial or bicentennial of his birth or death (1858 and 1937, respectively), but the arithmetic doesn’t confirm any such hypothesis. The violin concertos’ revival came first, sparked a generation ago perhaps by Aaron Rosand’s recording of the Third (re-released on Vox CDX 5102) and followed by Hagai Shaham’s (Hyperion CDA 67367, 27:2. Recently, I reviewed Shaham’s collection of Hubay’s shorter pieces (CDA 67441/2) and Ferenc Szecsödi’s (Hungaroton HCD 32155 and HCD 32060, parts of a more extended series) collections of short pieces, including a substantial number of the Scènes de la Csárda. Music and Arts’s collection of eight of theRead more Scènes, produced jointly with the Eastman School of Music, where violinist Charles Castleman serves as chairman of the string department, includes orchestral accompaniments by the Eastman Chamber Orchestra, and one of the Scènes has been orchestrated (in a somewhat anachronistic modern manner) by Eastman-graduate David Wish. Carl Flesch considered these works the most influential in disseminating Hubay’s reputation. Originally written for violin and piano, they enshrine popular Hungarian melodies rather than echt folk tunes, in scintillatingly virtuosic, and later, idiomatically orchestrated, settings that, like Sarasate’s stylized Spanish pastiches, provide a brittle album of ethnic romantic violin-playing. Charles Castleman fans the smoldering embers that glow in these rhapsodic pieces, although his readings may not appeal so strongly as Shaham’s to those who connect Hubay’s style with fiery gypsy-like virtuosity. At times, despite Mendi Rohan and the orchestra’s colorful support, the tonal beauty of Castleman’s 1708 Stradivari, and the engineers’ well-balanced, bright, and clear recorded sound, the soloist allows the Scènes, especially the longer ones, to show their length and occasionally fails to bring off effects such as harmonics and rapid runs with frisson-creating panache. Still, the opportunity to hear the pieces in their orchestrated versions (Aaron Rosand’s performance of Hejre Kati with Louis de Froment and the Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg reemerged on CD in Vox CDX 5102) would have offered sufficient incentive for aficionados of the violin to acquire these performances, even if they hadn’t been coupled with a collection of Hubay’s works played by the composer himself and by some of his most illustrious students.
For the compilation, Graham Newton and Ed Wilkinson restored recordings provided by collectors Eric Wen, Raymond Glaspole, and Dave Hermann (Al Schlachtmeyer contributed Szigeti’s Office of Wartime recording of Zephyr). Hubay’s own performance of the Intermezzo from his opera, The Violin Maker of Cremona, recorded when he was entering his eighth decade, features the slow, somewhat unsteady vibrato that would later plague the aging Szigeti’s tone production—in the case of neither violinist, though, obscuring in any way the musical message. Jelly d’Arányi’s vital and dashing reading of the Poem hongroise suggests the effect she might have had on Maurice Ravel, who wrote his Tzigane after an evening spent listening to her play. Harry Solloway, Ibolyka Zilzer, and Mary Zentay don’t make the same vibrant impression, although they play with a tonal beauty that the original 78s may not have been able to capture fully but nevertheless strongly suggest; while Ibolyka Gyráfás even displays some technical instability, perhaps not considered so debilitating a drawback to artistic performance as it would later be in what Oscar Wilde’s Aunt Augusta might have branded an age of surfaces. Franz von Vecsey’s warmth of tone, though, compares favorably with that of his master and presages things to come, while Duci de Kerekjárto combines throbbing cantilena with rhythmic gusto and razor-sharp technique—as does, at what appears to be an even higher level of synthesis, Emil Telmányi. Szigeti’s Scène sparkles with an unrestrained brilliance not often associated with him; and while the Zephyr, from the same period, isn’t note perfect, it bristles with the same kind of energy that he brought to explorations of more substantial repertoire. The restorations, even of the least prepossessing masters, seem to preserve many original timbral subtleties—with the 1928 Hubay performance and the wartime Szigeti, in particular, offering startlingly crisp and spacious recorded sound. For anyone on whom this repertoire or these performers exercise the least fascination, Music and Arts’s generous issue should strongly recommend itself; but it should appeal as well to students of the period and its performance practices. Urgently recommended, especially—though hardly exclusively—to these audiences.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 3, Op. 18 "Maros vize"by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Joseph Szigeti (Violin),
Andor Foldes (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1882-1883; Hungary Date of Recording: 1941 Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. Notes: This selection is a mono recording.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 2, Op. 13 "Kis furulyám"by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Emil Telmányi (Violin)
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1880-1881; Hungary Date of Recording: 1942 Length: 9 Minutes 9 Secs. Notes: This selection is a mono recording.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 7, Op. 41 "Kossuth-nota"by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Charles Castleman (Violin)
Eastman Chamber Ensemble
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1891; Hungary Venue: Rochester, New York Length: 8 Minutes 29 Secs. Notes: This selection is a stereo recording.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 5, Op. 33 "Hullámzó Balaton"by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Ibolyka Zilzer (Violin),
Michael Raucheisen (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1887; Hungary Date of Recording: C1928 Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. Notes: This selection is a mono recording.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 14, Op. 117by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Charles Castleman (Violin)
Eastman Chamber Ensemble
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1920; Hungary Venue: Rochester, New York Length: 10 Minutes 0 Secs. Notes: This selection is a stereo recording.
Scčnes de la Csárda no 4, Op. 32 "Hejre Kati"by Jenö Hubay Performer:
Emil Telmányi (Violin),
Annette Telmányi (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: circa 1882-1886; Hungary Date of Recording: 1959 Length: 6 Minutes 24 Secs. Notes: This selection is a mono recording.
Blumenleben (6), Op. 30: no 5, Der Zephyrby Jenö Hubay Performer:
Joseph Szigeti (Violin)
Period: Romantic Written: Hungary Length: 3 Minutes 22 Secs. Notes: This selection is a mono recording. Circa 1942 - Circa 1944