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Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)
Violin concerto No. 1 in A minor Concerto dramatique Op.21 (1884-1885) [28:23]
(Allegro appassionato [11:40]; Andante ma non tanto [8:57]; Allegro con brio - Un poco piu vivo [7:42])
Suite for violin and orchestra Op.5 (1877-1878, revised 1881) [20:07]
(Gavotte: Moderato [4:46]; Idylle: Andantino [4:54]; Intermezzo: Allegro assai man non troppo [5:04]; Finale: Mouvement du premier morceau - Allegro vivace [5:16])
Violin concerto No. 2 in E major Op.90 (c:1900) [24:38]
(Allegro con fuoco [11:11]; Larghetto [7:02]; Allegro non troppo [6:19])
Hagai Shaham (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
rec: Caird Hall, Dundee, 3-4 December 2004. DDD
HYPERION CDA67498 [73:23]
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Hubay was an example of that musician genus which combined virtuoso performance with composition, from Paganini and extending throughout to the 19th and 20th centuries. Cannily they used their platform appearances as opportunities not only to showcase their talents but also to play their own compositions. Hungary provided a rich seam from Liszt and Joachim to Hubay and Szigeti. Hubay’s output was considerable, with 126 published works including four symphonies, eight operas and many works for violin - four concertos - with orchestra or piano to his name. He was also a distinguished pedagogue with an impressive list of protégés from the aforementioned Szigeti, to Franz de Vécsey, Jelly d’Aranyi, Székely, Ormandy (later a conductor), Tibor Vargá and Sandor Végh. Hubay was born (in Budapest) into a musical family; his violinist father was also a conductor and teacher. By the age of eleven he had made his concerto debut (Viotti), and as a teenager went first to Berlin to study with his compatriot Joachim, and then back to Budapest to Liszt for composition. Lastly he went to Paris to study with Vieuxtemps, with whom he became close as friend and amanuensis, before beginning his performing career in earnest with tours of European countries. After four years as principal professor of violin at Brussels Conservatoire, he returned to Budapest to succeed his father at the Conservatoire (1886-1899), and also at the Academy of Music. There he performed with the young student Bartók in 1901, becoming its Director between 1919 and 1934. So clearly for half a century, until his death in 1937, Hubay was the dominant figure in Hungarian musical life. His string quartet included the distinguished cellist David Popper. On 22 December 1888 Brahms came to Budapest and gave the premiere of his third violin sonata with Hubay, an accolade indeed.

Stunningly played here by Hagai Shaham and impeccably accompanied by the BBCSSO under the solid guidance of Martyn Brabbins, the flavour of Hubay’s music lies in its Hungarian style, gypsy music-led (à la Zingara) rather than Magyar folk music, later favoured by Bartók and Kodály. The First Concerto was dedicated to Joachim and is very much the product of the last years of the 19th century, with traits of Brahms and Bruch clearly evident. Most striking is its beautiful slow movement dominated by flute and harp. The first tends to follow conventional sonata form, the last combines thrilling moments of virtuosity with episodes of lyricism. The early four-movement Suite looks back to an earlier Baroque age with its titles such as Gavotte, Idyll and Intermezzo. It once again reveals Hubay’s gift for melody in the charming and lushly scored Idyll; clearly the harp was favoured. The tri-partite Gavotte displays a wide degree of invention in the variation form, which gives cyclical shape to the work by returning in the Finale. If the Intermezzo and Finale are anything to go by, Hubay’s technique was something to be reckoned with; bow and fingers have to fly. The Second Concerto, while by no means abandoning his quintessential Romantic style, has more of a reflective mood in the improvisatory variations forming the slow movement. It also evinces a feel for the simplicity of folk music and folk dance respectively in the outer pair. Above all Hubay’s music remains a showcase for his own playing talents, particularly in the jolly finale which has plenty of tours de forces.

The virtuosic demands of Hubay’s music are more than adequately met by the formidable technique of violinist Hagai Shaham. One has to admire and be grateful to such musicians as he, for learning the music on this disc probably carries with it little promise that concert engagements of Hubay’s music will follow. His name - like so many other composers one could list - is not, nor probably ever will be box office, though surely no audience would be disappointed with the result. Once concert managements had agreed to take the risk (unlikely), it’s (only!) a matter of getting an audience to come to the concert hall. Meanwhile, thanks to recording companies such as Hyperion, of whose ‘Romantic Violin Concerto’ series this CD forms the sixth instalment, we can sit back and enjoy this otherwise forgotten music.

Christopher Fifield


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