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Ferenc FARKAS (1905–2000)
Orchestral Music - Volume 3
Old Hungarian Dances for oboe and string orchestra (1990, 2014) [13:39]
Musica serena for string orchestra (1982) [6:41]
Maschere for oboe clarinet and bassoon (1983) [7:10]
Piccola musica di concerto for string orchestra (1961) [10:43]
Concertino IV for Oboe and Strings (1983) [11:14]
Music for Zánka for string orchestra (1986) [5:20]
Ricordanze for cor anglais and string trio (1984) [10:12]
Aria e Rondo all'ungherese for oboe, violin and string orchestra (1994) [5:42]
Lajos Lencsés (oboe); János Rolla (violin); Lajos Rozman (clarinet); Andrea Horvath (bassoon); Emily Körner (violin); Andra Darzins (viola); Zoltan Paulich (cello); Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
rec. Istituto italiano di cultura, Budapest, 14-15 April 2014

The harpist Sioned Williams included Farkas's Tre Pezzetti in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast to which I was listening some time in the 1980s. That ensured his name never quite fell off my radar. This Hungarian composer, active in Budapest, Vienna and Copenhagen, wrote seven hundred pieces and although there do not seem to have been any heroic symphonies he produced music in all other genres including many film scores, concertos, stage-works, chamber and choral music.

Toccata are no slouches when it comes to bringing the music of this composer to the wider world. They have cornered the market in a completely agreeable way. In addition to his music for wind quintet (review) and choir (review) there have been three other CDs in the label's Farkas orchestral series: Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 4. This one reaffirms the picture of Farkas as an accomplished writer of devastatingly charming music. There's more to it than that but succulent charm is certainly a dominant aspect of this composer's musical identity.

Take the Old Hungarian Dances for oboe and strings. These are in seven short movements which put the dances across in eighteenth century finery. There's nothing adipose about the textures. Farkas avoids the worst excesses of Sargent, Harty or even Goossens. He has a lighter touch and can be compared with the more transparent textures achieved by Barbirolli and by Arthur Benjamin in their revivals of 'older music' and Françaix's L'Horloge de Flore. In fact these eager, twinkling-eyed and romanticised dance arrangements are down to the centre-stage oboist for this series, Lajos Lencsés. Willowy and diaphanous qualities shine through the other seven works here. What is also evidenced is Farkas's courage to be succinct. Nothing outstays its welcome. If anything you occasionally wish the music did not end so soon.

The Musica Serena represents a mediation between Hindemith's athletic textures and a Romantic sensibility. Maschere is for wind trio and in its happy quirky way suggests a link with the brave panoply of the Commedia dell'Arte. The Piccola Musica is also carefree and would partner well with Dag Wirén's Serenade for Strings. The Oboe Concertino IV is reminiscent of Arnold’s Oboe Concerto: piquant and moving. The Music for Zánka takes us back to the world of the Piccola Musica.

Ricordanze for cor anglais and string trio is from the same era but breaks from the rest with a subtle, and by no means light, serious tone. Something darker is afoot here and amid the misty half-tones English music listeners may well think of Warlock's Beside the River and The Curlew and Bernard van Dieren's Chinese Symphony. The final two-movement Aria e Rondo all'ungherese immerses the listener in a seventies-style soft-focus world not all that far removed from Binge's Elizabethan Serenade. The closing Rondo is pert and perky: highly polished light music with a leaning towards 'antiquerie'. In that it shares nationalist flavour and general atmosphere with the Old Hungarian Dances with which the disc opens.

As usual the disc is well annotated, performances are adept and full of apt feeling and the sound is bound to please.

Rob Barnett



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