Sándor VERESS (1907-1992)
String Quartet No. 1 (1931) [17:02]
String Quartet No. 2 (1937) [31:13]
Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello (1954) [21:19]
Ensemble Des Équilibres
rec. Hungaroton Studio, 14-20 February 2011
HUNGAROTON HCD 32691 [71:01]

Much is made of Bartok’s influence on Veress; he studied with Bartok and Kodaly. It’s there but it is by no means suffocating. The music presented here certainly carries the imprint of East European folk music and there are pre-echoes of the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra in the bluffly scrunching Vivo finale of the First Quartet. Its other movements often show a tenderly lyrical face – more Kodaly, in fact. Dissonance is certainly present but often delicately and empathetically done. The year of its composition was also the year of his only opera: Hangyegyek lázadása. The Second Quartet is only marginally thornier in the modernistic stakes. However the step taken between Veress 1 and 2 is only marginally more extended than those between the Rozsa and Kodaly quartets and the First Veress Quartet. If you enjoy those more familiar works you will like these after a moderately resolute listen. The first movement of No. 2 rises at 6.43 to an extraordinarily winged flight of passionate melody – superb! The finale buzzes and blitzes with propulsive confidence. The severe String Trio follows a similar tender trajectory across its two movements. There is more angularity and impactful pizzicato impacts and the players knocking on the wood of their instruments. Gentle affection is also to be found. The performances are touching, full of singing virility and give every evidence of long preparation and heart-referenced thought.

Hungaroton is no stranger to Veress. Their Hungarian Years piano and violin disc (HCD 32010) includes Seconda sonata, Sonata per violin solo, Songs on Poems by Attila József, Sonatina, Verbunkos from Nógrád and Cukaszôke csárdás. There’s a further chamber disc (HCD 32013) setting down Trio (3 Quadri), Trio in si bemolle minore, Canti Ceremissi, Memento per viola e contrabbasso and Introduzione e Coda. If you hanker after the orchestral Veress – and I certainly do – there’s HCD 32118: Prima Sinfonia (there are two symphonies in total: 1941 and Minneapolitana, 1953), Quattro danze transilvane per orchestra d'archi and Concerto per clarinetto e orchestra.

There is plenty more Veress to discover once the record companies discover him; the indicators of quality and expected reward are sanguine. There’s a Musica concertante for twelve solo strings. The concertos need to be borne in mind: violin, piano (including Hommage ŕ Paul Klee), oboe, string quartet or for two trombones – Tromboniade is his last completed work. There are major works for choir and orchestra: Sancti Augustini Psalmus and Das Glasklängespiel. Interesting to see among works listed in his catalogue: a Homage to Wales, three Short Pieces based on Welsh folk melodies (1948), a 1978 setting for soloists and chamber orchestra of Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and a single 1948 film score: The Soil under Your Feet.

His pupils included György Ligeti, György Kurtág and Heinz Holliger. Veress’s Passacaglia Concertante (1961) for oboe and string orchestra was written for Holliger. He spent the second part of his life, from the mid-1940s, onwards in Switzerland. He was awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1949 and the Bartók-Pásztory Prize in 1985.

I can see that I am going to have to spend more time browsing the Hungaroton catalogue – one the basis of this disc I would not dissent from the Hungaroton strap-line: “The label of discoveries”.

Already enthusiastic about Bartok or Rozsa? Ready to try something new. This disc will satisfy.

Rob Barnett

Already enthusiastic about Bartok or Rozsa? Ready to try something new. This disc will satisfy.