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Janos FUSZ (Johann Evangelist FUSS) (1777–1819)
Sechs Neue Lieder Op. 6 No. 1, 3, 5 & 6 (1808)  [9.42]
Der Weg  von Freundschaft bis zur Liebe, Op. 24 [5.04]
Gesänge, Op. 16 No. 1, 3, 4 & 5 [14.31]
Der Traum, Op. 21 (1815) [2.21]
Gesänge, Op. 22 No. 1, 3 & 5 (1815) [9.05]
Gesänge, Op. 23 No. 1, 2, 4 & 5) [13.10]
Elysuim, Op. 29 [7.49]
Beruhigung, Op. 31 (1817) [6.40]
An Emilie, Op. 32 (1817) [4.13]
Das Lied der kleinen Anna (1812) [2.27]
Maria Zadori (soprano)
Timothy Bentch (tenor)
Aniko Horvath (fortepiano)
rec. Hungaroton Studios, 4-10 October 2005
HUNGAROTON HCD32404 [75.48]

Composer Janos Fusz’s main claim to fame seems to be that he came to Beethoven’s notice, albeit in unfavourable circumstances. Czech composer Vaclav Jan Tomasek’s diary records that Beethoven made some disparaging remarks about Fusz. At the time, Beethoven had been hoping to bring to fruition his scheme for his opera ‘Romulus and Remus’ but this was frustrated by the fact that Fusz had already written an opera on the subject. Needless to say, Beethoven saw to it that Fusz’s opera was never performed in Vienna.
Fusz was very much a minor master, one of many on the Hungarian musical scene. He was born in Hungary to ethnic German parents and started his musical career in the employment of the music-loving Vegh family. He went on to hold the post of opera conductor in Pozsony (now Bratislava). In 1804 he went to study with Albrechtsburger in Vienna. Albrechtsburger was one of the most famous composition teachers of the time and he regarded Fusz as one of his favourite pupils. His most productive period as a composer was his time in Vienna from 1809 to 1814 when he published songs, piano pieces, chamber music and several works for the stage.
Only one fragment of Fusz’s Romulus and Remus survives and this, a canonic trio, seems to have been inspired by the canon in the finale of Act 2 of Cosi van tutte; we thus have good grounds for presuming that Fusz knew Mozart’s operas.  It is the spirit of Mozart that hovers over the songs on this new disc. Fusz’s published works were possibly known to Schubert, but Fusz never really reaches the complexity of Schubert.
Fusz’s first published set of songs, Sechs neue Lieder (Op. 6) breaks no new ground. Each song remains charmingly in the simple strophic form, though the piano part is not insignificant and adds musical interest. Fusz continues in this vein in his Opp. 16 and 23 songs. Though he alters the musical form by writing “varied strophic” songs, the subject matter remains firmly in the realms of the familiar. The last song of the Op. 16 set Bitte beim Abschied uses the form of an opera scena, with a recitative and a da capo aria, albeit with relatively straightforward piano accompaniment. Both Beruhigung, Op. 31 and An Emilie, Op. 32, which date from his last years, return to this form, using almost the same devices as the earlier song.
In Der Traum, Op. 21 and Das Madchen am Bach, Op. 22 Fusz tries other means to create a more complex, through-composed form. Both extend and stretch the strophic form to its limits with significant modulations and key structures. In Die Ercheinung, Op. 23 the vocal line is substantially strophic but the piano part is through-composed and boldly illustrative.
After 1813 the composer was ill and so his songs often deal with death and mortality in their subject matter. Some of these, such as Elysium, Op. 29 are his most significant despite the fact that he forgoes first rate poetry for that by lesser masters.
On this disc, the selection of songs is shared between Maria Zadori and Timothy Bentch. Zadori was familiar to me mainly through her recordings of Handel and other early music. Her voice has the focus and brilliance of her early pieces and is by no means a Romantic instrument. Instead she gives us clear, beautifully shaped accounts of the songs where every word and phrase tells. Timothy Bentch has an attractive lyric voice. His rather more Romantic instrument contrasts nicely with Zadori’s and he certainly holds his own. Bentch sings all of the Op. 23 songs on the disc and Zadori the Op. 22 ones. The remainder are split between them, giving each a balanced mixture of both the early strophic songs and the later more sophisticated ones.
The singers are well supported by Aniko Horvath on a modern copy of Anton Walter’s Viennese Fortepiano. I did wonder whether the recording engineers had rather too favoured the voices in the balance but this is not a grave fault.
All the songs are sung in German and given that Fusz’s origins were German I presume that this was his native language. The booklet provides all of the song texts in German, Hungarian and English along with an informative essay.
Fusz’s songs are by no means masterpieces but the least of them is charming and the best are fascinating in their attempts to extend the form, within the composer’s limits. In these fine performances they give us a glimpse into the world of the Kleinmeister at the time of Beethoven and Schubert.
Robert Hugill


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