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Ferenc FARKAS (1905–2000)
Serenade (1951) [8:52]
Quattro Pezzi (1966)a [9:09]
Gyümölcskosár (1980)b [17:40]
Antiche danze ungheresi del 17. secolo (1959) [10:05]
Rondo capriccio (1957, rev. 1959)c [9:00]
Lavottiana (1967) [16:15]
Ulrike Schneider (mezzo-soprano)b; Dieter Lange (double bass)a; Daniel Dodds (violin)c; Phoebius Quintet
rec. Reformed Church, Arlesheim, Switzerland, June 1999 and January 2000
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0019 [71:33]

 

 

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.

Antiche danze 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 folk-tinged Neo-classicism.

Lavottiana 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.

Quattro Pezzi 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.

Gyümölcskosár (“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.

Hubert Culot

TOCCATA Classics

 

 

 



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