Ferenc FARKAS (1905-2000)
Chamber Music for Cello - Volume One
Alla danza ungherese No. 2 (1934) [4:40]
All’antica (1962) [8:36]
Ballade (1963) [8:42]
Folksong Sonatina (1955) [4:35]
Sonata for violoncello solo (1932) [9:43]
Arioso (1926) [3:01]
Quattro pezzi (1965) [9:14]
Gyümölcskosár; ‘Fruit Basket’; Song-cycle for soprano, violin, clarinet, cello and piano (1946) [17:00]
Miklós Perényi (cello)
Dénes Várjon (piano: tracks 1–8, 12–28)
Lúcia Megyesi Schwartz (mezzo-soprano: tracks 17–28)
Kristof Baráti (violin: tracks 17–28)
Lajos Rozmán (clarinet: tracks 17–28)
rec. October 2015, Hungarian Radio, Budapest
Texts and translations included

I have had the good fortune to review several discs devoted to the music of Ferenc Farkas and of them the ones that have made the greatest impression have been on Toccata. Spurning the toe-dipping principle the label now opens another big Farkas Front by exploring the chamber music for cello in this volume. The song cycle Fruit Basket somewhat stretches the cellistic point, as the accompanying instrumentation includes violin, clarinet and piano – but we’ll let that pass.

The music isn’t programmed chronologically so the listener can listen consecutively to inspirations that range back and forth across the Hungarian composer’s life. Alla danza ungherese No. 2 is full of charm and terpsichorean vitality. The decades later All’antica was originally written for the baryton but its transfer to the cello is apposite and welcome. The central panel is an Aria con variazioni, which makes me wonder whether Farkas was patterning it after Respighi’s Adagio and variations, but it enshrines definably Debussian harmonies and elements that seem to echo Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte. After the languor and elegant vitality of this, the doughtier Ballade, written the following year, in 1963, offers a somewhat different platform for Farkas’s gifts. Despite its name it evinces a turbulent profile – restless, almost defiant.

The highlight of the 1955 Folksong Sonatina is the utterly delightful lyricism embedded in its central slow movement but a far greater challenge awaits the performer of the Sonata for solo cello of 1932. This was patterned after Kodály’s great work – written, indeed, as a kind of tribute to it. It’s nowhere near as expansive or indeed as virtuosic but Farkas is good at suggestive drone effects and repeated figures that generate apposite tension. But he is also effective at meditative elements, too, and at suggesting the angularity of folk themes. This is an effective work, and it’s beautifully performed here by Miklós Perényi in what is its premiere recording. The Ariso – like the Ballade – has been recorded before but everything else is new to disc (the song cycle being heard for the first time on disc in this version). Arioso was originally the slow movement of a now lost Viola Sonata and it is extremely romantic. The compact Quattro pezzi of 1965 shows his gift for lyric compression. Fruit Basket consists of twelve very brief settings of poems by Sándor Weöres. These warmly sympathetic pieces are full of deft colour and allusions, wittily compressed, languid and liquid – in the case of the water-allusive clarinet in the ninth poem. Mezzo Lúcia Megyesi Schwartz is no shrinking violet, her operatically-sized vocalism occasionally imperiling these brief settings.

But she is fully committed, as are all the musicians, Perényi most prominently and obviously. The recording quality is fine, and László Gombos’s booklet notes up to this label’s customarily high standard.

Jonathan Woolf

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