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Turbulent Winds - Music Of Eastern Europe / The Prairie Winds

Farkas / Ligeti / Haas / Prairie Winds
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1193   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ferenc FarkasEndre SzervánskyGyörgy LigetiPavel Haas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prairie Winds
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TURBULENT WINDS Prairie Winds ALBANY TROY1193 (51:49)

FARKAS Early Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century. SZERVÁNSZKY Wind Quintet No. 1. LIGETI 6 Bagatelles. HAAS Wind Quintet, op. 10

Ferenc Farkas (1905–2000) is one of those Read more 20th-century European composers with a toehold in the repertoire thanks to the relative popularity of a few works, the present quintet being one such. Yet Farkas wrote some 700 pieces, ranging from a concerto for alpine horn to 12-tone compositions, and taught Ligeti and Kurtág. The Early Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century is a charming mid 20th-century working for wind quintet of “reportedly” anonymous dances from the 1300s to the 1700s. One would not be surprised to discover they were pastiches, but they are no less enjoyable for that. Taking them from their peasant origins into the sophisticated environment of the professional wind quintet, Farkas is careful not to overload his source material.

Farkas said, “For me, composition is a joy, not a sufferance. In my music, I hope to transmit this joy to my listeners.” From Endre Szervánszky’s first wind quintet, one could imagine him adopting a similar attitude. Like Farkas, Szervánszky ended up on the faculty of the Liszt Academy, combining teaching with composition, having originally been a clarinetist. The quintet dates from 1953 and is entirely benign, clearly showing the interest in folk music the composer shared with his compatriots Bartók and Kodály. It is consistently engaging for the listener. While it does not pretend to utter great truths, neither is it trivial.

Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles come from early in his career (originally 1950) and there are none of the avant-garde techniques of, say, the Requiem. Even so, when premiered in 1956, one movement was suppressed by the communist authorities—too many minor seconds. For all that the influences of Stravinsky (in the first and fourth movements, for example) and Bartók (in the second) are clear; one gets the impression that the young Ligeti had so strong a musical personality that he could (usually) transcend these influences. Given the slight nature of the pieces that one is presumably intended to infer from the title, I am always surprised how deep some of them go. The second piece contains the most impassioned music heard so far on the disc and evokes Bartók’s lake of tears from Bluebeard’s Castle . The fifth piece (dedicated to Bartók) unwinds at the end in breathy seconds like something by Stockhausen. And, is it a coincidence that the first bagatelle reminded me of Kander and Ebb’s Chicago?!

Apart from the odd flash in the Ligeti work, this disc is light on the heavier emotions. There is a certain yearning quality in the second movement, “Preghiera” (Prayer), of the Haas quintet. Even here, there is plenty of perky music, for example in the third movement, an “eccentric dance” that seems to be describing someone rather the worse for wear. This quintet is more firmly characterized than Szervánszky’s, with each movement having a different emotional perspective. Pavel Haas (1899–1944) was killed in the Holocaust at Auschwitz and, while this knowledge does not inform the quintet, written in 1929, it is hard not to hear it in that context. The final movement is resolute, winning through to a firmly positive conclusion.

Apart from noting that the title Turbulent Winds is almost precisely the opposite of what is actually offered on the disc (it’s more like “Refusal to be affected by the turbulent times”), and observing that I would have placed the Haas third, I cannot fault this disc. The players individually and as an ensemble are superb and the recording realistic (what more does one need?). I see the recordings were made in 2004 and 2005, so it is good to welcome them, if belatedly.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Early Hungarian Dances (5) from the 17th Century, for wind quintet by Ferenc Farkas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prairie Winds
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1959; Hungary 
Quintet for Winds no 1 by Endre Szervánsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prairie Winds
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953 
Bagatelles (6) for Wind Quintet by György Ligeti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prairie Winds
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; Hungary 
Quintet for Winds, Op. 10 by Pavel Haas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prairie Winds
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Czech Republic 

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