Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
Overture to a Symphony Concert, Op.26a (revised version) (1957) [9:27]
Rhapsody for cello and orchestra Op.3 (1929) [15:07]
Notturno ungherese Op.28 (1963-64) [10:02]
Three Hungarian Sketches Op.14 (1938-39) [22:07]
Mark Kosower (cello)
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV/Mariusz Smolij
rec. September 2009, Hungaroton Studios, Budapest and November 2007, Studio 22 of Hungarian Radio, Budapest (Three Hungarian Sketches)
NAXOS 8.572285 [57:06]

Rózsa’s four works in this disc cover a thirty-five year compositional span. The earliest is the 1929 Rhapsody, which doesn’t appear to have been recorded before. The cello enters lightly, indeed, in an almost English fokloric way – at points you might think this was Finzi, for example, in genial mood – though procedurally things are perhaps more attuned to Bartókian development and to the ethos of Bloch too. The little cadenza for the warm toned cellist Mark Kosower is accomplished well, and the vivace close employs brisk rhythmic material, quite angular and forward moving. It all makes for a somewhat unusual slice of Rózsa, but a very welcome one.

Just before the outbreak of World War 2, he completed the Three Hungarian Sketches; Capriccio, Pastorale and Danza. The first is an energetic affair, again hinting at Bloch-like sonorities, obviously folk-based, and well orchestrated. The pert wind writing is rather worthy of note. The Pastorale has considerable lyric depth and a real beauty, full of colour and incident – a country idyll of memorable concision and sense of projection. By contrast the last of the sketches is a fiery dance, with a full complement of bagpipe and fiddle drone, the whole ensemble swirling away wildly. There’s a solo violin moment and chugging basses into the bargain.

The brassy canonic flourish, with which the Overture to a Symphony Concert opens, promises frisson. We get it, but also more fractious writing too. Those little ascending, questioning lines and pounding brass and percussion statements may, indeed, as the composer himself noted, reflect something of his own feelings about the Hungarian Uprising of the previous year. But it’s not presented programmatically, though retrospectively one may perhaps adduce the urgent trumpet calls to the prevailing political circumstances in the country of his birth. Finally we have Notturno ungherese of 1963-64, which moves briskly from a sunset opening to a powerful brass led procession.

The recording is first class and the performances sound committed, idiomatic and sharply attuned to the composer’s sensibilities.

Jonathan Woolf

Committed, idiomatic and sharply attuned to the composer’s sensibilities.