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Eugene ZÁDOR (1894-1977)
A Christmas Overture (1961) [8.36]
Biblical Triptych (1943) [24.45]
Rhapsody for Large Orchestra (1930) [20.54]
Fugue Fantasia (19.58) [13.00]
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV/Mariusz Smolij
rec. Studio 22, Studio 6 (Track 6), Hungarian Radio, Budapest, 9-12 September 2015
NAXOS 8.573529 [67.15]

This CD is a fine addition to the ongoing series (yet another – hats off to Naxos, again) of works by Zádor: Dance Symphony (review); Oboe Concerto (review); Five Contrasts: (review).

Zádor is a composer worthy of the attention, perhaps in the category of a major minor composer. His work is characterful, in a romantic style, with a fine ear for orchestral timbre. It is unsurprising that, like his friend Miklós Rózsa, he would become a successful composer of film scores after his emigration to America, where he became a naturalized citizen. His remains are in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

On this CD, the most substantial work is the Biblical Triptych, dedicated to Thomas Mann, to acknowledge the influence of his biblical novels. The three movements are different in character, impressions rather than precise descriptions. These give the opportunity for varied – and in David – filmic and exciting music. Some parts are a little obvious – the harp for David, some angularity to represent the early harshness of Paul, but this does not detract from overall attractiveness.

In some ways, the early Rhapsody for Large Orchestra, from Zádor’s days in Hungary, is the most symphonically interesting. It is a set of variations on a simple tune. The use of the orchestra is virtuosic, with virtually every woodwind instrument (and the woodwinds are tripled) getting a solo somewhere. The music is episodic, but always appealing. The enjoyment is in the display – one senses the opportunity for the orchestral players relishing the chance to demonstrate their skills. A small complaint is that many parts of the string writing are for divided strings, but the recording appears to use the Stokowski orchestral layout, with first and second strings to the conductor’s left. Physically divided strings, as Zádor would have written for, might have given the ear a touch more detail.

The programme begins with an overture, and, essentially, ends with one: despite a rather academic title, the Fugue Fantasia was specifically designed by Zádor as a concert opener, with a triumphal conclusion. It is rather more Fantasia than Fugue, though the beginning is certainly a fugue as recognized by any composer.

Overall, an enjoyable, well-recorded, approachable CD, worth an hour of anyone’s time.

Michael Wilkinson
Previous review: Rob Barnett



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