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Imre SZÉCHÉNYI (1825-1898)
Complete Dances for Orchestra
Budapest Symphony MÁV/Valéria Csányi
rec. 2016, Rottenbiller Street Studio, Hungaroton, Budapest.
NAXOS 8.573807 [72:02]

It's not the first time I have asked "Who was Imre Széchényi?" The answer lies in my review of this amateur composer's Lieder on MDG Audiomax. Hungarian nobleman and diplomat, Széchényi dabbled - but quite effectively and with commitment - in composition. His inspiration was fed by and in turn fed the waltz craze that swept through nineteenth-century Europe's well-heeled and courtly ballrooms. His diplomatic skills resulted in Emperor Franz Joseph awarding him the Golden Fleece, and Emperor Wilhelm II conferred the highest Prussian order, the Black Eagle.

He was a friend of Liszt and Johann Strauss II. The latter dedicated to Széchényi two of his own compositions: Gedankenflug-Waltz and Széchényi March. He also included Széchényi's dances in his own concerts. A widely travelled man, all but three of Széchényi's dances were composed in St Petersburg. That these can be heard at all is down to a new edition by Roswitha Popp published by Schlossberg Verlag, Marktoberdorf. Conductor Valéria Csányi provides some of the notes while others are supplied by István Kassai.

In the case of the present Naxos CD we are introduced to six sets of dances, each comprising three pieces: eighteen in all. A superior romantic sensibility and a Tchaikovskian lilt can be heard in the Polka-Mazurka of Set No. 1, Les Vagues and in Waldine. The Marguerite Mazurka floats along in winsome confidence. In general, there is more emotional sustenance and musical interest to be had from the Mazurka works of which there are seven. The full Polkas - eleven of them - can be overly brash or too smoothly conventional. The Neige, Bliktri, Datscha and Pretchistinka polkas are somewhat better than the rest.

These are premičre recordings and pursuers of the darker corners now inhabited by the more obscure practitioners of vintage waltz music must not miss this CD. If you are already pleasurably immersed in the dances of Dresher, Fall, Millöcker, Ivanovici, Eilenberg and Gung'l and Tonstudio's 'Spirit of Vienna' series then delay is to be avoided.

There are loveable dances among some humdrum moments but all delightfully recorded and performed. Well worth rescuing

Rob Barnett

List of Contents
Vol. 1
No. 1. Leopoldinen - Polka [3:04]
No. 2. Tommy - Polka [2:04]
No. 3. Polka - Mazurka [4:27]
Vol. 2
No. 1. Zither - Polka [3:39]
No. 2. Velloni - Polka [2:52]
No. 3. Marguerite - Mazurka [3:33]
Vol. 3
No. 1. La Tulipe, Mazurka [1:53]
No. 2. Neige - Polka [2:41]
No. 3. Les Vagues, Polka - Mazurka [4:52]
Vol. 4
No. 1. Bliktri - Polka [3:07]
No. 2. Datscha - Polka [3:24]
No. 3. Waldine, Polka - Mazurka [5:24]
Vol. 5
No. 1. Polka prétentieuse [5:01]
No. 2. Felicetta - Polka [3:10]
No. 3. L'Éventail, Polka - Mazurka [8:22]
Vol. 6
No. 1. Pretchistinka - Polka [2:56]
No. 2. Polka hongroise [4:14]
No. 3. Polka - Mazurka Fantaisie [7:18]


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