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Géza FRID (1904-1989)
Orchestral Music - Historical Recordings
Paradou: Fantaisie Symphonique, Op. 28 (1948) [14:27]
Concerto for two violins and orchestra, Op. 40 (1952) [20:26]
Études Symphoniques, Op. 47 (1954) [14:00]
Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, Op. 55 (1957) [20:57]
Rhythmical Studies for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 58 (1959) [7:02]
Theo Olof and Herman Krebbers (violins: Op. 40)
Géza Frid and Luctor Ponse (pianos: Op. 55)
Het Brabants Orkest/Michel Tabachnik (Op. 28, 47, 58)
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Willem van Otterloo (Op. 40)
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean Fournet (Op. 55)
rec. Eindhoven, 17 October 2001; 7 November 1952, (Op. 40); Hilversum (Op. 55), 15 June 1962
ET'CETERA KTC1633 [77:23]

The pianist and composer Géza Frid was a prominent figure in Dutch musical life post WW2, and his music, revealing influences of Bartók, Debussy and Ravel, is both melodically gifted and rooted in his native Hungary and its folklore. He was born January 25, 1904 in Máramarossziget, Hungary (present-day Sighetu Marmației, Romania). His early musical groundings on the piano were with his mother, and rapid progress resulted in a recital debut at the age of seven. In 1912 his parents relocated to Budapest to enable him to enrol at the Franz Liszt Academy. Here he studied piano with Béla Bartók and composition with Zoltán Kodály. Due to a culture of anti-Semitism, Frid moved to the Netherlands in 1927 at the invitation of the violinist Zoltán Székely. The two formed a duo and, for two years, performed throughout Europe. During the years of occupation Frid, a stateless Jew, could not perform, so took part in the thriving resistance movement. In 1948 he was finally naturalized, settling in Amsterdam. He died on September 13, 1989 in Beverwijk.

Paradou, Op. 28, written in 1948, received its premiere a year later at the Concertgebouw under Eduard van Beinum. The work takes its inspiration from chapter 15 of Zola's novel La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret, where the title means Paradise. The piece depicts an immense, abandoned garden where the two protagonists, Albine and Serge, come together. Each of the five short movements is headed by a quote from the book's chapter. The work opens with an idyllic scene, enlivened by birdsong and teeming with nature's bounties. Frid’s imaginative and masterly orchestration conjures up a panoply of tints and hues. The fourth movement is a bewitching and heartfelt Romance, enveloped in wistful nostalgia. Exquisite sonorities charm the ear in the Épilogue finale.

Two Dutch concertmasters, Theo Olof and Herman Krebbers gave the premiere of the Concerto for two violins and orchestra on 22 October 1952 in the Hague. This studio recording was set down sixteen days later, with Willem van Otterloo at the helm of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. The Concerto is structured in two movements. The first's pastoral flavour has an endearing warmth with its flowing lyricism. Throughout, the soloists seem as one, such is the unity of spirit. The second movement, soused with Hungarian and Romanian folk elements is, by contrast, more animated. Both players articulate the catchy rhythms with alacrity. Frid makes reference to J.S. Bach's Concerto for two violins during the course of the movement, the quote broken abruptly by a shrill dissonance. I must mention the excellent audio quality of this almost 70-year-old recording, and the agreeable profiling of the two soloists in the sound picture.

If you enjoy something that packs a punch, releases abundant energy and embraces a neoclassical style, then the first of the three Études Symphoniques, 'Obsession' will grab you. 'Repos' which follows couldn't be more different, elegiac and dreamy. 'Fuite', which completes the set, is sprightly and volatile.

The 1962 performance of the Concerto for two pianos is of added interest in that it features Frid as one of the two pianists, the other being Luctor Ponse. Jean Fournet conducts the Radio Philharmonic. Four years earlier in 1958, Frid and Ponse had given the premiere, this time with Henk Spruit conducting. Motoric rhythms rather than melody are the focus of the spiky opening movement. The pianists' role is a demanding one. The slow movement is unsmiling and dour. There's even a brief, sombre soliloquy on the solo cello at one point. I detected some Stravinskian influence in the angular, percussive finale, again dominated by potent rhythms.

The Rhythmical Studies for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 58 were written in 1959, and were a commission from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. There are seven in all, each lasting less than a minute. They were intended as training exercises in rhythm for members of the Conservatory orchestras. Despite their didactic function, each displays a wealth of ingenuity and invention, with some colourful orchestration to boot.

Aside from the two historical performances, the other recordings date from 2001. Michel Tabachnik secures the very best from the Het Brabants Orkest. Sound quality is top notch. The booklet notes, in English and Dutch, are commendable. They give more than enough background and context to the music, as well as supplying a detailed biography of the composer.

Stephen Greenbank


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