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In Memoriam - Hungarian Composers, Victims of the holocaust
László WEINER (1916-1944)
Duo for Violin and Viola (c.1940) [13.59]

Pál BUDAI (?-1944/5)
Short Dances
from the Ballet ‘Doll Doctor’ for piano duet (c.1938) [7.09];

Elemér GYULAI (1904-1945)
Song-Lullaby [1.45]; Air for cello and piano [2.45]

Sándor KUTI (1908-1945)
Serenade for string trio (1934) [11.00]; Sonata for solo violin (1944) [8.54]

György JUSTUS (1898-1945)
Jazz Suite
(1928) for solo piano [10.39]

Bernadett Wiedemann (mezzo); Péter Bársony (viola); Ditta Rohmann (cello); Vilmos Szabadi (violin); Vilmos Szabadi (violin); Emese Mali (piano); Márta Gulyás (piano)
rec. Hungaroton Studios, Budapest, 7-11, 17 July 2008
HUNGAROTON HCD32597 [62.52] 


Experience Classicsonline

We have in recent years become used to discovering music by composers of Jewish origin who perished in the Nazi pogroms. Starting in the 1980s on Channel Classics we came across Victor Ullmann and Gideon Klein. Then in Decca’s marvellous Entartete Musik series we encountered Pavel Haas and Hans Krasa. Companies like Koch International developed this further with Erwin Schulhoff and Rudolf Karel. These men were mostly Czech Jews. Some were pupils of Janáček and most had resided at the Theresienstadt complex. With this disc new names emerge. These are men who died elsewhere and in other circumstances, men those birth dates may be unknown their death dates uncertain and dates of whose compositions and circumstances behind them impossible fully to ascertain.

Pál Budai is a good example. He was well known in the 1930s as a choral conductor and teacher yet we do not know much more about him. His work here is a lively set of five pieces for a ballet which appears to have been left unorchestrated. It is sophisticated light music but brilliantly written for two pianos and much influenced by eastern European folk melodies and rhythms. The Shepherd’s Song is especially alluring. 

Another good example would be Elemér Gyulai - known as a writer of a significant book ‘The Effect of Music - A Study in Public Psychology’. He lectured on the subject and was a renowned expert in this field as well as a composer of much larger-scale pieces than the one we have here. The ‘Lullaby’ is not a sleepy piece at all but a lively simple song in an irregular time signature. Bartók would have been pleased with it. Its rather sinister text, quoted in János Mácsai’s extensive and incredibly interesting notes - with amazing photos of the composers and of the performers - is in no way described in conventionally expressive terms. The beautiful ‘Air’ for cello and piano is a modal piece, a perfect miniature, somewhat reminiscent of Kodály and none the worse for that. It is most elegantly played here by Rohmann and Gulyás. 

The first work on the CD is the longest. It is by the only composer represented here that I, and possibly you, might have heard of; he is László Weiner. He was put to death at the age of 28 having been a pupil of Kodály to whom his music, a mixture of modality, some whole-tone melodic writing and folk rhythms, is much indebted. He was also developing a career as a concert pianist. His Duo for Violin and Viola is in four movements with an exciting Scherzo placed second. 

Sándor Kuti had his Serenade for string trio first performed in 1934 when under the great Erno von Dohnányi’s guidance he finished his studies. He had several works performed in what the booklet calls a “first composer’s night”. Apparently many of Kuti’s pieces remain lost but this beautiful and original work is published. It falls into three movements with a Scherzando 3/8 middle movement and a mysterious third one which ends in mesmerising fashion on a dominant seventh. 

The other work here is the Sonata for unaccompanied violin which was probably his last as it is dated 14 July 1944. It was written whilst in the dreaded SA labour camp on scraps of ragged paper. Dedicated to his wife it she miraculously came into her possession. Also miraculous is its upbeat if at times quite tough mood. It is played here by Vilmos Szabadi with tremendous commitment and passion. 

The Jazz Suite by György Justus is his best known work. He was another versatile musician little of whose music has survived his violent death. The suite is not conventional jazz, rather more acerbic with a touch of Kurt Weill in the opening ‘Rhapsody’. Then follows a somewhat lugubrious waltz, a rather undanceable tango, a really sleazy blues number and finally a Cole Porteresque foxtrot. This is al played with a great adroit style by Marta Gulyás. 

What has especially brought tears to my eyes whilst listening to these fantastically committed performances of such rare music is that in these brief works we have but a few surviving remnants of a large and a lost generation of brilliant musicians. Who knows in what direction their music would have flowered. On this evidence they all had talent and considerable promise but the sharpest regret must be reserved for Kuti and for the very young Weiner whose musical language must still have had yet further to go despite the brilliance of the Duo here recorded. 

As indicated the performances are spectacularly fine and the recording close and immediate but with space and air. 

This disc adds to our still growing knowledge of the composers so tragically cut short by the horrors of the concentration camps. All in all I can only advise that you search it out and listen in awe. 

Gary Higginson 


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