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Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882-1953)
Lieder: Őszel születtem [02:22]; A hol te jársz [02:17]; Őrök mámor [01:29]; Egyedül [03:11]; Bujdokolva járok [02:51]; Virágének [01:54]; Hajdu tánc [00:45]; Nincsen apám [02:39]; Öszi estén [03:39]; Tüzet rak a német tábor [02:23]; Sárvári nóta [02:52]; Székely Anna [01:53]; Piano pieces: Reverie [03:03]; Intermezzo [03:19]; Scherzo [05:11]; Intermezzo [03:09]; Lieder: Emlékezés [04:56]; Kurucok tábori dala [02:11]; Sólyom dal [02:01]; Tréfas bordal [02:10]; Nem tudom én [04:06]; Nagy Lajos karabeli banderista… [04:44]; Kinyillott az idö [03:01]; Fülemüle nota [02:06]
Anna Korondi (soprano); István Kovács (baritone); Peter Stamm (piano)
rec. Kleiner Sendesaal, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, 18-23 March 2004
CPO 777 059-2 [68:26]

Though I confess to a sweet tooth generally where post-Johann Strauss Viennese operetta is concerned, I must say that Kálmán’s "Countess Maritza" has always struck a particular chord in me, over and beyond the works of Lehár. Its melodies and harmonies seem to me to transcend their actual comedy context to express strong, melancholy emotions which somehow tug at my heartstrings. I realize this is a purely subjective view and for others it may be Lehár and not Kálmán who has this effect, and for others again the fact that this is "light" music may prove a barrier to perceiving strong emotion in any of it. But if you do find yourself nodding in agreement with my remarks, then I think you will be thrilled to find that much of this same emotional thrust, this time coupled with an unfettered abandonment to Magyar melancholy, can be found in most of the first twelve songs here and a few of the others. You will recognize many of the same rhythms, and occasional turns of phrase, as are found in "Countess Maritza", a question of Hungarian heritage, I imagine, rather than actual self-plundering.

For this is very early Kálmán and this recently rediscovered (though it was published at the time) collection of 20 songs seems to represent all that survives. They make up two groups; the first twelve are serious, passionate and above all melancholy, with well-wrought piano parts and soaring vocal lines; few though they are, they must now take the same place in Hungarian music as Duparc’s few songs have in French. The others are actually eight numbers rescued from a Singspiel – practically Kálmán’s first operetta – which flopped in 1906 though the score was liked. Some of these are more conventionally jolly but when melancholy breaks through they are touching and the set ends with an attractive duet.

Sensibly, the two sets have been separated by four piano pieces – out of only five which have survived. I thought the first disarmingly attractive, the others merely agreeable. But I repeat, the first twelve songs are a real find.

The performances are admirable. Anna Korondi has a voice which seems light yet able to soar, Felicity Lott-like, into a creamy upper register. Even before reading her curriculum, I thought she’d make a fine Sophie, and in fact I see this is one of her roles. She would also make a splendid Countess Maritza. The baritone has a rich, warm voice, but in comparison with the soprano he is a little less able to bind the notes together to make a soaring legato line. Still, his are likeable performances. Peter Stamm is excellent both as accompanist and soloist, the recording is fine, the booklet notes are duly informative and there are the original texts with translations into German and English. Though Korondi’s performances, in particular, will not be improved upon easily, I nevertheless hope that many more singers, including as many non-Hungarians as are willing to face up to the intricacies of the language, will take these songs into their repertoire.

Christopher Howell




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