Kálmán CSÉCKI (b.1962)
Alpha [10:46]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Le quattro stagioni, Op.8
La Primavera (Spring) RV269 [9:55]
L’estate (Summer) RV315 [10:16]
L’autunno (Autumn) RV293 [11:21]
L’inverno (Winter) RV297 [8:55]
Omega [11:04]
Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia (1933)
Ave Maria [7:11]
Roby Lakatos (violin, electric violin, drum)
Brussels Chamber Orchestra
Kálmán Cséki (organ, keyboards, synthesizer (Cséki))
Dominique Corbiau (voices)
Gabriel Laufer (vibraphone, timpani, percussion)
Jenő Lisztes (cimbalom)
Kálmán Cséki Jr (piano); László ‘Csorosz’ Lisztes (electric bass) (Omega)
rec. 6-9 July 2014, Studio Dada, Brussels
AVANTICLASSIC 10422 [69:27]

I first came across Roby Lakatos by way of his Deutsche Grammophon recording ‘Later With Lakatos/Live from Budapest’, which gets a mention in Mark Bridle’s review of his concerts in Ronnie Scott’s in June 2000. This and other albums such as Klezmer Karma have an energetic and infectious folk vibe, but in some cases sail close to stylistic ambiguity with their multiple crossover elements. This recording of The Four Seasons is the first time that Lakatos has taken on a major work of the ‘classical’ repertoire, and in doing so he goes head-on with just about every violin soloist on the planet.

This version of The Four Seasons has a rather charming feature in its use of the cimbalom as an alternative to the harpsichord for the continuo part. This is fairly downplayed for much of the music however, the instrument not being artificially spot-lit in terms of balance, and often just adding slight but highly effective touches of musical-box colour. The cimbalom comes into its own in the slow movement of Autumn, but the part is restricted to a fairly straight melodic line, and it would have been nice to hear more freedom and fireworks from this quarter.

Roby Lakatos makes no secret of this performance as being “alla Gypsy”, using the virtuoso character of the music to ‘shine’ and add his own personality. “I think the public does not expect me to simply play the notes … My challenge was to pay homage to Vivaldi for his inspiration, the freedom of his writing.” In other words, we need to ditch preconceptions of ‘authentic’ Baroque performance style or even that older centre-ground of tradition delivered by famous violinists over the years. Added double stops and mini-cadenzas are a feature, as can be Lakatos’s skittish bouncing bow and some swooping between the notes. Some movements are more surprising than others, such as the multi-fingered ‘tockel’ pizzicato in the slow movement of Summer like the rattling of sun-dried seeds in a hot wind, and the high flageolet countermelody that decorates sections of the first movement of Autumn. Lakatos’s brilliance is in his unassailable armoury of folk techniques and his stylish élan rather than in the kind of refinement we would expect from a more typical soloist. He will speed up here and there, his runs and leaps are not always immaculately accurate or in tune, but this matters not in the slightest if you can accept the ‘Gypsy’ premise of this performance. There are some remarkable moments in the third movement of Autumn which I would take over any amount of straight technical perfection, and the rapid repeated notes of the first movement of Winter also play to Lakatos’s strengths. There are some excellent added percussive effects and playful rhythmic variations here that you certainly won’t hear in any other recording of this work. In some ways one could only wish that this interpretation was a little more daring in that regard, but the magical musical conversation that turns the central Largo of this music into something uniquely picturesque and the solo wizardry in the final Allegro makes up in some ways for a lack of daring earlier on. It’s as if Lakatos warms up creatively as the piece progresses.

Kálmán Cséki’s Alpha is described as “an extravagant musical journey starting with the Big Bang, travelling through the elements and reaching the Baroque era.” This a strange musical hybrid, mixing abstract contemporary sounds with folk-music sonorities and rhythms, big sweeping romantic themes and with here a monastic a-capella moment and there a pop/jazz feel. Alpha opens for The Four Seasons in an intriguing way, and Omega closes with an even more extravagant array of effects, with electric violin and the kind of lush harmonic sound that would perhaps have made this a cult hit in the 1970s – an aspect of the music freely acknowledged in the booklet – but which today sounds bizarrely beached and cumbersome. The booklet includes a picture of Roby Lakatos in audience with Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia, and the final track is a sweet Ave Maria with strings, choir and solo violin which expresses the way Lakatos cherishes the memory of their meeting.

Sound quality for this release is a crisp, hyper-reality studio triumph. This has to be seen as something of an oddball Four Seasons but it’s certainly worth a try, and indeed does have some special moments. The Brussels Chamber Orchestra deserves credit for their flexibility as a highly capable ‘band’ for this project, and is much more than just a backing group. It’s true that Roby Lakatos is and should be at centre-stage for these concertos but the remaining impression if more one of a group effort, and this is all to the good. As for the other tracks, these are something of an indulgence, but if you defiantly turn up the volume and don your velvet flares there is potential for a green flash of retro-cool to be discovered here.

Dominy Clements


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