This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Koch International's perusal of the concert works of Miklós Rózsa continues with this outstanding recording of the composer's output for solo piano, the unquestionable masterpiece of which is the 1948 Piano Sonata. Indeed, relistening to this work, which I have known since Capitol released the premiere recording of it with Leonard Pennario in 1957, or possibly earlier, since I have bumbled through the work at various pianos on occasion, I find myself wishing one more time that the Rózsa had composed more often within the Classical style rather than producing single works such as the Piano Sonata and the concertante works for different instruments (piano, violin, viola, cello, and violin and cello). While one does not
tend to think of Rózsa as a Neoclassicist, given the composer's natural inclination for dramatic immediacy that shows up well before he penned a single film score, he in fact uses the formal rigors of Classicism as an extremely effective counterbalance to his more overt theatrics. Each of the three movements of the Piano Sonata, for instance, even the dreamy, nocturnal second movement, offers several big—we're talking really big—climaxes that burst with such intensity that, out of context, one could not imagine them being contained within the confines of the sonata-form structure. Yet Rózsa organizes the thematic content so carefully in all three movements that a very different, more slowly generated type of emotion grows out of the various reprises and recapitulations. Rózsa also has a wonderful sense, similar to that of his fellow countryman Béla Bartók, of both the percussive and lyrical potential of the grand piano's various sonorities. Yet if there is a precursor for the harmonic and textural language of the Piano Sonata, it is Paul Hindemith, mitigated throughout with folky, Magyar modalities unique to Rózsa's particular musical idiom. All in all, Rózsa's Piano Sonata is a unique, 20th-century masterpiece with a crowd-pleasing potential that makes its general absence in the concert halls a major mystery.
Sara Davis (formerly David) Buechner offers a rich, sonorous performance of Rózsa's Sonata, beautifully highlighting the work's numerous inner themes, dashing off the sometimes thorny difficulties of the keyboard writing as if they were child's play, nicely defining the composer's wonderfully rich chordal structures, and frequently imposing well-placed rubato to highlight the music's lyrical side. Indeed, her performance of the work is so well balanced that I hesitate to even bring up my one problem, which is that those climaxes need, for my money at least, to be brought off with a good deal more panache. Davis's gifts, including her wonderfully smooth passagework and her keen sense of the deeper levels of Rózsa's rhythmic language, serve her even better in the other works on this CD, which move in tone from wistful to energetic and exciting while rarely if ever generating the kind of intensity that turns up in the Sonata. I particularly like the early (1931; the composer's autobiography gives 1932) Variations, which seems in many ways to be a first run for the well-known Theme, Variations, and Finale for orchestra composed in 1932. Indeed, the basic theme of the Variations reveals patterns so familiar in the composer's music that I got the strange sense of Rózsa himself being the theme and his life the variations. The intriguing six Bagatelles from 1932 have a starker, more threadbare quality that resurfaces many years later (in 1953) in The Vintner s Daughter, a set of 12 variations inspired by a poem (included in translation in the program booklet) by Swiss poet Juste Olivier, each of whose 12 stanzas the composer envisaged being read before each variation (Artur Rubinstein pointedly suggested that great pianists were not necessarily great readers, a cop-out argument if I ever heard one). Kaleidoscope, from 1947, is a collection, in the mold of Octavio Pinto's Scenas Infantis, of six pieces for children, whom the music allows to visit several different countries, including the composer's native Hungary via the quasi-cimbalom accompaniment in the second piece. Finally, a wonderful surprise on this CD is the hauntingly effective arrangement, as a Valse crépusculaire (Twilight Waltz) for piano solo, of the dark and moody main theme from Rózsa's score for French director Alain Resnais's absorbing and solidly morbid English-language film Providence (1977).
Koch's sound beautifully reproduces the rich sonorities of Buechner's Yamaha grand, and the program booklet contains an extensive essay by the late Christopher Palmer. This is Want List territory.
-- Royal S. Brown, FANFARE [9/1999]
My final item, pretty much as promised, is Sara Davis Buechner's recording of the complete solo-piano music of the late Miklós Rózsa (see 23:1). Buechner's pianism is generally perfectly in tune with the composer's highly dramatic, colorful, and frequently virtuosic idiom, and her rendition of the 1948 Piano Sonata, one of the composer's masterpieces, dazzles the ear and fires up the emotions.
-- Royal S. Brown, FANFARE [Want List, 1999] Read less
Works on This Recording
Valse Crepuscalense by Miklós Rózsa
Sara Davis Buechner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Kaleidoscope, Op. 19b by Miklós Rózsa
Sara Davis Buechner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1946/1986; USA
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