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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
Orchestral works - Volume 1
Overture to a Symphony Concert op.26a (1956 rev. 1963) [9:07]
Three Hungarian Sketches op. 14 (1938 rev. 1958) [20:08]
Tripartita op. 33 (1971 rev 1972) [22:20]
Hungarian Serenade op. 25 (1932 rev. 1946) [22:44]
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
rec. 3-4 January 2008, Studio 7,New Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10488 [74:46]
Experience Classicsonline

Those fanfares which brazenly strut through the opening measures of the Overture to a Symphony Concert announce another great series from Chandos. It's well timed too. Although the concertos have appeared from various quarters including Telarc and, most recently, Naxos, the generality of the  orchestral music has been neglected, at least when it comes to new recordings. The last time anything this ambitious was tackled it was by Koch International more than a decade ago with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. We must hope that later Rózsa volumes will include the early Symphony dating from Budapest years, the unknown Hungaria ballet, the Notturno Ungherese and the curvaceously winsome  delights of The Vintner's Daughter and Kaleidoscope.
Gamba and the Manchester Chandos team are well attuned to the lavish Studio 7 acoustic. They have capitalised on it for a number of Chandos issues including two volumes of Korngold film music. This instalment is just stunningly recorded. Also this music-making strides to the front rank of the Rózsa interpretative art. The Overture is a sumptuous epitome of everything that Rózsa's Hungarian brand of pellucid romanticism can say. If you have never heard him in concert mode before be aware that he is always more Kodály than Bartók. Speaking of which the Hungarian Sketches have the distinctive Magyar fluttering lilt of Kodály's Peacock Variations. In the outer movements we hear the ripe brilliance of the Marosszek Dances complete with zigeuner violin solos, zip-tight writing for the massed strings and uproarious whirling writing for brass. The central Pastorale is redolent of Kodály's glowing yet terribly neglected Summer Evening.
The Tripartita is also available conducted by the pioneering David Amos on a mixed American recital on Kleos Classics KL5103 and by Werner Andreas Albert on CPO 999 839-2. Albert draws out a vital performance but is trounced by the Chandos sound. This version in its drive and confidence sweeps the field. Tripartita is a very late piece written in the midst of the avant-garde era. It was broadcast by the BBC in 1977 but using their Concert Orchestra and Ashley Lawrence rather than any of the Corporation's ‘top-flight’ bands. That it was relayed at all in a studio broadcast session sandwiched between the BBC Singers' Rózsa's two a cappella motets (once recorded on an Entr'acte LP as conducted by Maurice Skones) was surely down to Christopher Palmer whose poetically-referenced Novello study of the composer helped ignite and lead the resurgence of interest in the concert music. In fact Tripartita, which was premiered in the USA by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, conducted by Antal Dorati, is a superbly ripe and eloquent piece which until hearing this version I have never felt completely at ease with. Gamba really lends this triptych an atmospheric helping hand. There is a particularly cloud-hung central Intermezzo. The UK premiere was given by the LSO conducted by Previn at the RFH on 18 May 1975.
Thus we step back from 1971 to the 1930s again for the Hungarian Serenade. Nationalism returns. Examples abound: from that:Hary Janos-style burbling bassoon and rattling side-drum to the resinous cello solo of the Serenata to the merry-eyed skipping Scherzo to the subdued Notturno. Strange how often in listening to this Hungarian composer's music English music references occur. Just as Kodály's wonderful Symphony and Concerto for Orchestra for me carry echoes of Moeran so Rózsa's dynamic writing reaches out into the same territory - especially of the Overture to a Masque and the Sinfonietta. There are Delian echoes too as well as similarities with the bright sorrow-lit orchestral writing of Howells and even of Patrick Hadley and Warlock in the Notturno. Some of the most dynamic writing made me think of the War in the Air movement from Walton's music for the film The Battle of Britain.
A lovely disc lovingly and  thoroughly written up by Andrew Knowles. More please and soon.
Rob Barnett


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