Notes and Editorial Reviews
ALBANY TROY1193 (51:49)
Early Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century.
Wind Quintet No. 1.
Ferenc Farkas (1905–2000) is one of those
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
. 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
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
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
Works on This Recording
Quintet for Winds no 1 by Endre Szervánsky
Period: 20th Century
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