Miklós RÓZSA (1907 - 1995)
Violin Concerto Op.24 (1953/4) [31:22]
Concerto for String Orchestra Op.17 (1943) [23:55]
Theme, Variations and Finale Op.13 (1933) [19:27]
Jennifer Pike (violin)
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
rec. MediaCity UK, Salford, 12 and 14 December 2011, 7 January 2012 (Violin Concerto) and 12 June 2012
CHANDOS CHAN 10738 [75:08]
Theme, Variations and Finale Op.13 is yet another Rózsa work structured as a theme and variations. This time the theme is an original one stated by the oboe at the outset. The melancholy theme came to the composer when he was leaving Hungary to settle in Paris. He had bidden farewell to his family and it was the last time he would see his father. “Doubtless this experience was a key element in the mood of the theme” (Andrew Knowles). As already remarked in other reviews of Rózsa's music, he developed a real liking for the variation form as a structural device enabling him to generate diversity within a work while preserving some unity by way of the ever present-theme no matter how 'disguised'. The Finale is also based on or at least another variant of the theme. Thus the Finale is yet another variation rounding things off with what Knowles aptly describes as “a powerful and dramatic conclusion”. 

The Concerto for String Orchestra Op.17 was composed in New York after the composer had completed one of his film scores: Korda's Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. The historical circumstances - the world was then at war - may to a certain explain the abrasive and stringent writing as well as the vigorous thematic material. If Rózsa's music is often closer to that of Kodaly than that of Bartók, the Concerto for String Orchestra Op.17 certainly echoes Bartók's intense moods as heard in near-contemporary works such as the Divertimento for Strings (1939) and parts of the Concerto for Orchestra. As already mentioned, the outer movements display muscular string writing and tense thematic material that the deeply elegiac slow movement fails to enlighten. In short the whole work is a deeply serious, honest and sincere piece that should feature in the repertoire of string orchestras willing to venture into more rarely explored, though rewarding repertoire. 

The Violin Concerto Op.24 was composed for Jascha Heifetz in 1953 and revised in 1954. Once again this substantial work falls into the traditional pattern and is thus in three movements. The first movement is fairly developed and includes a first cadenza. The music is again folk-inflected as the opening statement of the theme by the clarinet, soon imitated by the soloist, shows. The second movement is a beautiful nocturnal elegy characterised by subtle and delicate orchestral touches. The final movement is in the spirit of an energetic dance full of lively rhythms although the music halts momentarily in a calmer section before resuming its original impetus rushing the music to its explosive close. At the risk of repeating myself, Rózsa's Violin Concerto is the perfect example of a superbly crafted piece. It has enjoyed considerable success and was recorded shortly after its first performance. It is shamefully neglected in concert halls. As the rest of Rózsa's concert output, it is just too good to be bluntly ignored. 

This release, the third volume in the Chandos Rózsa series is just as fine as the first two. Performances and recorded are superb. Jennifer Pike plays superbly throughout with technical assurance and deep commitment. Hers is the finest reading of the Violin Concerto that I have heard so far. Incidentally there is another recent recording of the Violin Concerto by Anastasia Khitruk on Naxos 8.570350 that I found marginally less assured particularly so in the first minutes of the first movement. That said, this budget priced release might be for you if you do not know the work and want to hear it before deciding for Jennifer Pike's reading. Full marks again to Andrew Knowles for his detailed and well informed insert notes.  

This generously filled release will be a must for all Rózsa enthusiasts. Others with a liking for well crafted and attractive music will also find much to enjoy here. I cannot wait too long for the forthcoming volumes. 

Hubert Culot 

Volume 3 in Chandos' Rózsa series on a par with the preceding ones and a superb reading of the Violin Concerto. 

see also review by John France 

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