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Julius BELICZAY (1835-1893)
Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 45 (1887) [48:31]
Serenade in D minor, Op. 36 (1875) [19:22]
Budapest Concert Orchestra-MÁV/Tamás Gál
rec. August 1995, Erzsebetligeti Szinhas, Budapest
Hungarian Romantic series
STERLING CDS11152 [64:50]

Julius Beliczay, Sterling's first Hungarian Romantic, is also shown as Julius (Gyula) von Beliczay. His early years studies took place in Hungary. After this he spent many years in Vienna both studying and practising as an engineer in parallel with his music teaching and composing. He later worked widely as a music journalist. An influential presence in Vienna, Leipzig and Budapest, his last five years were lived in Budapest where he taught music theory until 1892 when illness intervened.

There are two symphonies, the second from 1892 being his op 66 in A major. In addition, there are three string quartets, various other chamber works and lots of piano solo pieces. He also essayed vocal works including a Mass in F for SATB, mixed chorus and orchestra, Op.50. Among his claims to subdued fame is a cadenza written for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.

His First Symphony veers between lightly-painted drama and Dvořák-like music of a sunny disposition. His orchestrations are said to have been influenced by Schumann and there is evidence of that in the finale. It's all fairly relaxed, ambling and affable rather than an assault on the senses. Beliczay steers clear of anything torrid, although dark clouds do occasionally scud across the horizon, but his ideas are more pictorial than emotionally complex. It says something that three of the four movements are marked "allegro" or "allegretto" and that the penultimate movement is an Adagio cantabile. If you are looking for other impression indicators then Beliczay occasionally had me thinking of the cheerful and lively aspects of works such as Schubert's Ninth Symphony, Salomon Jadassohn's First and Schumann's ‘Rhenish’ - the latter especially in the finale.

The Serenade from twelve years earlier pursued a related mood vector - sumptuous but in this case lightly skating over the emotions. There's regret but no bitterness, nostalgia but no angst. A very nice throb to the strings in the Adagio cantabile (III) is almost a precursor to Rakastava. The finale has a notably stately Hungarian skirl while the violins pamper and are pampered.

The Hungarian State Railways (MÁV) orchestra was founded in 1945 and it's fitting that the orchestra under a different name are the performers here. Just think, in the first half of the last century there were railway choirs and orchestras in the UK; then again, in the 1930s a Fleet Street orchestra briefly flourished. The Hungarian Ministry of Communications appointed Beliczay chief engineer of the fledgling Hungarian State Railways. The Government sent him to Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium to study both rail services and music education.

This disc emerges into the international market afforded by Bo Hyttner's Sterling label. It had limited circulation in a non-commercial release in 1996 when issued to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Hungarian rail service.

The liner-notes are by Istvan Kassai and are in Hungarian with English translations

Music that diverts and gently stirs the emotions. The performances are smooth and sound and although not the last word in luxury are amply enjoyable.

Rob Barnett

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