Ilona Kabos was born
in Budapest in 1893 and died in London
in 1973. The works on the present disc
post-date her critically well-received
American debut by one year and reveal
a mature artist at the height of her
powers. Indeed, this is treasurable
Liszt playing – a truly virtuoso technique
allied with real devotion to the spirit
of the music at hand. This disc deserves
The famous Variations
on ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’
represent Liszt at his most monumental.
Kabos seems to have complete identification
with this composer. The virtuoso outburst
around 6’30 in appears here as an integral
part of the musical argument. As the
reading progresses, it becomes obvious
that Kabos feels close to Liszt’s darker
side (one can hear this most clearly,
possibly, around the 11-12 minute mark).
The ominous low sonorities at around
12’25 reveal further evidence of this,
giving a massive quality to the climax
and putting the very interior, intimate
chorale at 13’10 into high relief. Furthermore,
the recording copes supremely well with
the extremes of dynamic range, whole
at the same time containing a real warmth.
is a work replete with delights, yet
there appears to be no really outstanding
version in the catalogues right now.
Kabos’s response is at once keen and
intimate. The ‘Scherzoso’ reveals cheeky
staccato, retaining the tone of each
and every note; The ‘Old Christmas Carol’
(the first excerpt) begins like ‘O come,
all ye faithful’, but then intriguingly
steers away. Very sweet and unmistakably
Liszt, Kabos’s voice-leading in the
middle section is a dream. She is able
to conjure up real peace, yet finishes
the set with an extrovert ‘In the Polish
was another composer close to Kabos’s
heart. The Three Rondos, Sz84
reveal a mature interpreter at work.
In the eloquent simplicity of the very
opening of the first, Kabos reveals
herself to be a more mature Bartók
player than June de Toth, whose recent
set on Eroica Records pales in comparison.
The second Rondo is more incisive, more
biting yet barer, and Kabos plays up
its modernism. In fact the final two
Rondos share a common language (the
third in ‘barbaro’ even when subdued).
The popular, short
Sonatina is distinguished particularly
for the poignancy Kabos brings to the
first movement, and she realises all
the charm of the excerpts from For
Children, which include a music-box
impression and, as played here, much
A highly enjoyable
collection and a fitting memorial to
an artist to be reckoned with.