Haydn and the Gypsies
Monica Huggett/Lux Musica/Linda
KLEOS Classics KL 5101
[Total playing time
Despite the unlikely title it becomes self-evident bearing in mind Haydn's
birth in the Hungarian lakeside village of Rohrau and his later service as
Kapellmeister at the Esterhazy Court, Austro-Hungarian roots and life
respectively. Wandering gypsies or Roma established for themselves
a highly sophisticated cultural identity, and this despite great efforts
to persecute them out of existence from about 420BC to Hitler (and beyond
no doubt to the present day). At various times their musical talents were
exploited more by those who enslaved them, for example as entertainers to
the marauding Turkish armies, thus their own Roma arts, styles and
influences were disseminated along with those in whose service they operated.
By the 18th and 19th century more sophisticated groups
operated within the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy, their bands consisting
of a leader on the violin accompanied by other strings, winds and the cimbalom
(a hammered zither). They would also have a more sinister purpose, accompanying
soldiers recruiting conscripts, a kind of softening-up process to put village
men in a good mood with their accomplished playing and to make it easier
for them to be persuaded to take the King's shilling (or Duke's groschen
in this case!).
This highly interesting and superbly played CD is the brainchild of an expert
in the field, the American Linda Burman-Hall, a musicologist who can also
get out there and perform (brilliantly as a fortepiano player, but also as
percussionist and director of the ensemble - flute, violin, viola and cello).
There are seven groups of works, each a compilation of short and varied pieces
sharing the same key but by different composers, apart from a set of seven
dances by Hummel in the middle and at the end the three-movement Piano Trio
in G (Hoboken XV: 25) by Haydn. Dominating the whole group, and quite rightly
too, is the solo virtuoso playing of Monica Huggett, overflowing with goulash,
her unashamed portamento, warm tone, stylish rubato all eminently Hungarian.
Composers featured apart from Haydn are, apart from Hummel, unknown to this
reviewer (Koschovitz, Csermák, Lavotta, Bihari, the list goes on and
there's plenty by Anonymous too) and there is a lot of similarity in the
format of these compositions. The oft-repeated formula of slow Laments followed
by brisk dances establish a pattern which serves as a reminder of familiar
works later on in the 19th and 20th centuries such
as the Hungarian Dances of Brahms, Liszt, Kodály, and Bartók.
This is a generously filled CD, the instruments authentic, the sound brightly
resonant and spacious, all the performances excellent. Highly recommended.