Jeno HUBAY (1858-1937)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 21, “Concerto Dramatique” (1884) [30:30]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, Op. 90 (c. 1900) [26:45]
Scènes de la Csárda No. 3, Op. 18 (c. 1883) [7:13]
Scènes de la Csárda No. 4, Op. 32 (c. 1886) [6:19]
Chloë Hanslip (violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Mogrelia
rec. Lighthouse, Poole, U.K., June 2008
NAXOS 8.572078 [70:46]
From the opening notes of Op. 21 the listener is left in no doubt that Jeno Hubay was a fully paid-up member of the late-Romantic school of composer-performers. The name of Liszt, a fellow Hungarian, comes to mind, but it is Henri Vieuxtemps who is the most frequently evoked in connection with Hubay. Comparing the music on this disc, however, with what little I have heard of the Belgian composer, it is Hubay’s that seems the more interesting. It is easy to listen to and not particularly challenging, but it is certainly not pale or unmemorable. It is well crafted but any reader who thinks I am damning with faint praise here should lose no time in acquiring this disc, as I am convinced it will bring much pleasure. There are stock gestures, to be sure, and many moments where the composer’s command of formal matters is rather self-conscious. One can almost hear him saying “it’s time for a short cadenza now”, whereas a master composer will contrive to allow such events to occur seamlessly in the overall structure. The first movement of the First Concerto is quite dramatic for much of its length, but boasts a very affecting second subject. The slow movement is perhaps the pearl of the work. Bruce Schueneman, in the booklet notes, describes it as “gorgeous”, and that is a perfectly appropriate word. The solo instrument really sings, indeed, hardly stops for breath throughout the movement. The finale opens in more conventional manner with a few rather commonplace virtuoso gestures, but after a while the music slows and calms – in the self-conscious manner outlined above, one might think – for a quieter section. When it comes, though, this really is lovely, and throughout the work one is surprised by the freshness of the melodic writing, if not its total originality.
The Second Concerto is perhaps less consistently inspired, but is a most satisfying listen nonetheless. It would take a thesis to explore why neither of these works measures up to the greatest in the repertoire, but with such consistently pleasing music there is no real need to ask the question. One should just to submit to it and enjoy it.
The disc is completed by two short pieces for violin and orchestra entitled Scènes de la Csárda. The czárdás is a Hungarian dance form, usually beginning with a slow introduction and ending with a faster, often rather wild section. An excellent example is the fake csárdás sung by Rosalinda in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus as a way of convincing the assembly that she really is a Hungarian Countess, but I don’t think anyone hearing these works would have any doubt that Hubay really was a Hungarian composer. The writing for the solo instrument is virtuoso in nature, and that for the orchestra is brilliantly colourful and evocative. Both works would make marvellous encores for a visiting soloist, and as such, would bring the house down.
If the composer were alive today he would be clasping his hands in gratitude for the advocacy of Chloë Hanslip. She rises to the fearsome technical demands of these works without flinching, with strong, rich tone and absolutely spot-on tuning. More importantly still, she seems totally convinced by, and committed to this music, bringing to it an ardent romanticism that serves it perfectly. I can hardly wait to know what she is going to record next. She is admirably supported by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in music which, though colourfully orchestrated, is conceived mainly as a vehicle for the soloist. Andrew Mogrelia directs the ensemble with sensitivity and meticulous attention to detail.
Bruce R. Schueneman contributes a booklet note that tells you all you need to know to enjoy this disc. The recording is excellent. All this is available at the usual Naxos price. What are you waiting for?
William Hedley
Virtuoso romantic violin music, easy to listen to, superbly played…see Full Review