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J.P.E. HARTMANN (1805-1900)
Character Pieces, Nos 1-3, for string orchestra, Op.81 [15:17]
Suite in A minor, Op.66 (1864) [20:18]
Fantasie-Allegro (1889) [9:58]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
String Quintet in G major (1888) [28:17]
String Orchestra/Emil Telmányi (violin)
Ilona Telmányi (violin, viola)
Annette Telmányi (piano)
Anika Telmányi (violin), Annete Telmányi (viola), Mihalyka Telmányi (cello)
rec. 1965 (Nielsen), 1983 (Hartmann)

Danacord is mining its back catalogue and has an extensive reissue programme lined up for 2020. This Hartmann disc thoughtfully reproduces the LP cover; the Nielsen quintet comes from a much earlier disc. Performances focus on the distinguished Telmányi family, led by the paterfamilias, Emil, the Hungarian-born son-in-law of Nielsen.

In April 1983 the 91 year old Telmányi, nearly blind but still energetic and full of plans (he was to die in 1988), asked to record the music of J.P.E. Hartmann and so, with a string orchestra made up of professionals and friends, he conducted the three Character Pieces of 1884 for the label. Clearly, he relished the clean-cut but eager and attractive writing, its dappled pizzicati and ‘Introduction and Allegro’ feel in the opening panel. He is truly alert to the play of pizzicato and arco in the third piece as much as to the more burnished and lyric elements in the central movement.

On the same stereo album his violinist daughter Ilona is accompanied by his second wife Annette (née Schiĝler) in the Suite in A minor. Annette plays Hartmann’s own piano, gifted to him on his 75th birthday in 1880 and, to be frank, sounding every month of its age by 1983. You’ll have to accept its very domestic sound and imperfect tuning. The music is characteristically charming, sometimes ‘in olden style’ but always confident and bracing. There’s a real charmer of a scherzo and the Moderato that follows is not any less attractive. We could do with these as encore pieces in recitals. The music is played with style though Annette’s battles with the piano prove tough and Ilona, who inherited her father’s employment of elegant slides, isn’t always intonationally perfect. They also essay the Fantasie-Allegro, a bigger-boned work that conforms to more of the concertante school – somewhat generic but approachable.

Nielsen’s early String Quintet was taped in 1965 and features the entire Telmányi team, which includes his three string-playing daughters – violinists Emil and Anika, violists Ilona and Annette (she doubled) and cellist Mihalyka. Telmányi was then in his early 70s and his slides are prominent as ever, but his vibrato has inevitably widened appreciably since his heyday. This is a charming example of family music-making, with inevitable passing frailties of execution and intonation – the tremolandos and characterisation of episodes being high water marks of this congenial affair.

Wherever possible studio tapes have been used; I suspect the Character Pieces come from an LP transfer as there is some brief LP rustling. Jesper Buhl’s booklet notes set the scene with affection. Maybe it would have helped to include recording details and original catalogue numbers in a more prominent place than secreted in the notes – but that’s a quibble. I enjoyed this restoration immensely.

Jonathan Woolf

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