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Eugene ZÁDOR (1894–1977)
Dance Overture (1965)  [7:32]
Fantasia Hungarica (1970) [11:04]
Élégie: The Plains of Hungary (1960)  [9:33]
Rhapsody for cimbalom and orchestra (1969) [12:16]
Variations on a Merry Theme by Johann Strauss (1964)  [22:22]
Rhapsody for orchestra (1961)  [14:57]
Zsolt Fejérvári (double bass)
Kálmán Balogh (cimbalom)
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV/Mariusz Smolij
All world premiere recordings except Rhapsody
rec. 2015/17, Studio 22, Hungarian National Radio, Budapest
NAXOS 8.573800 [77:48]

All but one of the pieces here are receiving their first recordings and the other, the Cimbalom Rhapsody, seems not to be otherwise generally available. Indeed, Naxos, as so often, have been actively promoting this little-known composer, with earlier recordings of his Biblical Triptych (8.573529 – review review Christmas 2016), Dance Symphony and other works (8.573274 – review review), Divertimento for strings and other works (8.572549 – review) and Five Contrasts and other works (8.572548 – review).

Our reviewers’ reactions to this series have been rather mixed; my own response to the latest release is to share the more enthusiastic responses. I haven’t heard all the others, but I was also happy to recommend the Biblical Triptych, including the Hollywood-style Christmas Overture from 1961 which opens that album.

Those who have had reservations about some of the earlier releases have done so on the basis that Zádor’s works after his flight to freedom in America consisted of not very tuneful sub-Rózsa music. In his later years, however, he composed a number of works which saw him return to his Hungarian roots, with music in an immediately appealing style and with hints of folk music, though apparently without any direct quotation.

Two of the works on the new release specifically mention Hungary in the title and a third is a concerto for that archetypally Hungarian instrument, the cimbalom, here performed by a soloist who has become almost as famous an exponent as Anton Karas of Third Man fame was of its cousin the zither. As a long-time devotee of both instruments, I very much enjoyed this work.

Elsewhere too there’s less of the Hollywood style which seems to have deterred some of my colleagues. This time, if there’s an influence, it’s less Rózsa and more Bartók, though at times I was reminded of Walton’s film music and, of course, the cimbalom evokes its prominent presence in Kodaly’s Háry János. Throughout most of the music there’s a strong sense of yearning for home. The notes describe Zádor as combining classicism, romanticism and modernism, and that’s a pretty apt description.

With performances and recording which do justice to this attractive music, this could be your ideal introduction to Zádor’s music or your ideal second chance if you tried and gave up with one of the other albums. Subscribers to the invaluable Naxos Music Library can try it there first.  Don't expect a rival to Bartók and Kódaly but enjoy some very good also-ran music.

Now that the price of Naxos CDs from some dealers has risen to Ł8.30 – some hopeful on Amazon is even asking over Ł10 for a second-hand copy – you may decide to download rather than purchase the CD.  If you play downloads via MusicBee, my favourite player, or the Sony Walkman, be aware that unless you edit the ‘artist’ column to read the same for all tracks, you will hear the music in the wrong order. It’s one of those occasions when we are given too much and too varied  information and the player thinks it’s dealing with three different albums. Back up the music first and do it carefully: ‘MAV Symphony Orchestra’ should do it.

Brian Wilson

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