With his near-contemporaries
Laszlo Lajtha (1892–1963) and Miklós Rózsa (1907–1995), Farkas
belongs to the “missing link” generations bridging the gap between
the maturity of Bartók and Kodály, and the emergence of the younger
generation, including Ligeti, Kurtag, Petrovics, Szokolay and
Durkó, who were among his pupils in Budapest. A quick look at
the Farkas website (www.ferencfarkas.org)
shows that his music is reasonably well represented in commercial
recordings (mostly from Hungaroton), although I suspect that much
of it is still to be committed to disc.
The various works
here span some thirty years of his long and prolific composing
life. All but one of these pieces belong to what might be referred
to as folk-inflected Neo-classicism, and none the worse for
that, since the music is extremely appealing, superbly crafted
and warmly expressive.
ungheresi del 17. secolo,
also often referred to as Old Hungarian Dances,
is probably Farkas’s best-known and most popular work outside
his native Hungary. This unpretentious, colourful and attractive
work often brings one of Farkas’s teachers to mind: Respighi
whose Antiche danze ed arie per liuto most likely
served as Farkas’s model while composing this most enjoyable
and entertaining piece. The slightly earlier Serenade
was composed for Zoltán Jeney, the flautist of the Budapest
Wind Quintet. By the way, he was the father of the Hungarian
twins for whom Britten composed his Gemini Variations
Op.73. This lovely work is a marvellous example of Farkas’s
draws on tunes written by the Hungarian fiddler János Lavotta
(1764–1820), and is a reworking of the Lavotta Suite
for chamber orchestra of 1951. Some of these tunes display a
striking similarity to those used or alluded to by Kodály in
Hary Janos. It is another attractive piece; perhaps
a bit too much of a good thing for some tastes.
for double bass and wind quintet (originally for double bass
and piano, but there’s also a version for cello and piano) was
written for Farkas’s son András. It is a short suite of four
character sketches, in which the double bass displays its wide
expressive and tonal range. There are not that many pieces for
double bass, so Quattro Pezzi should come as a
pleasant surprise and a most welcome addition to the repertoire.
(“Fruit Basket Songs”) is a short cycle setting delightfully
simple children’s poems by Sándor Weöres. It, too, exists in
several versions, but the one heard here is simply miraculous.
The music is by turns tender, slightly ironic, humorous and
deeply moving for all its simplicity. The composer responds
to the many moods suggested by the words with nicely characterised
musical miniatures. All these settings are disarmingly (and
often deceptively) simple, and – as a result – never outstay
their welcome. This is the real gem in this release.
As mentioned earlier
in this review, one of the works here does not readily fit with
what I described as Farkas’s folk-inflected Neo-classicism.
The Rondo capriccio for violin and wind quintet
- originally a duo for violin and piano composed in 1957 and
arranged in 1959, not 1966 as stated on the back cover - reminds
us that Farkas was no stranger to modern idioms. He too composed
twelve-tone works such as Prelude and Fugue of
1947. Although in no way rebarbative, the music obviously inhabits
a more austere and stringent harmonic world than the other works,
although it is again strongly expressive.
I thoroughly enjoyed
this generously filled, superbly played and well recorded release.
Why is music such as this not heard more often, let alone recorded?
Where would we be without all these smaller, independent and
enterprising labels who bravely record unfamiliar, but generously
rewarding repertoire? In short, full marks to all concerned.
A really lovely disc to be enjoyed from first to last.