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Tibor HARSÁNYI (1898-1954)
Complete Piano Works 2
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
rec. 2019, Studio Bottega del Pianoforte, Lugano, Switzerland
GRAND PIANO GP807 [72:19]

The first disc of piano music by Hungarian Tibor Harsányi (review) was all world premičre recordings and out of 37 tracks on this, the second disc of his music, only 3 have been recorded before. I always find it extremely sad that composers can work hard to produce a body of works which the record industry ignores for so long. It is 107 years since the earliest piece was composed, and only now, 66 years after its composer died, has it seen the recorded light of day. No one should draw the conclusion that it is because the music is not worth hearing; Grand Piano obviously has faith as does Giorgio Koukl, and I am enjoying it as much as I did the first disc. I defy anyone to listen to Mouvement de Fox-trot and Presto from his Suite brčve of 1930 and not want to keep them on repeat. Dance was a key inspiration for Harsányi, and it powers a number of the pieces on this disc. All the music is both fresh and inventive. Even the earliest piece from 1913 could have been written at any time between then and now. Presto also incorporates elements of jazz as do many of the pieces. As Giorgio Koukl’s hands leapt up and down the keyboard, I was reminded of one particular jazz pianist who has visited our jazz club in my town. The Vivace from the same suite is just as infused with the joie de vivre evident in Presto.

The Petite suite de danse is a series of deliciously reflective and at times nostalgic little gems that cannot fail to delight the listener. There is always a hint of fragility that makes them particularly attractive to me, a sentiment I hope is shared by others who hear these works for the first time. Jeu and Fęte are particularly memorable. Harsányi’s facility for dashing off a tune is exemplified with the tiny Étude that makes an impression despite its briefest 46 second stay, making me wish he had developed it further. Jazz makes its presence felt again in Rythmes. Cinq inventions pour piano. It is interesting that the composer was in Paris at the same time as Erwin Schulhoff, who was also known for his penchant for including jazz elements in his music. Not that many others were not but Harsányi as a lover of dance could not fail to recognise the potential for incorporating jazz rhythms into his music; it is almost a logical step to take.

There is much to enjoy in the 12 Petites pičces, from the only slightly martial Marche, Chant which again has a fragility that pulls at the heartstrings for a mere 55 seconds to the gentle Berceuse and finally to the merry Danse paysanne.

A wistful nostalgia is apparent in Improvisation sur la chanson ‘Je vais revoir ma Normandie’, while Fox-Trot (from 13 Danses) whets the appetite to hear the rest. The disc ends with the earliest of all the works, Valse from 1913. This opus 2 was written when Harsányi was only 15 but already showing promise as a composer, and revealing an early love for dance which as we have seen continued throughout his composing career. Valse was written in December in Hungary but earlier that year while visiting Paris he had written a complete ballet score Legende Canadienne when only 14, a remarkable achievement.

This disc is part 2. Whether there is enough of his music that is available to make the series continue, I do not know. There are critics out there who I am sure will look down their highbrow noses at this music considering it to be ‘lightweight’ and as such without interest but that is an attitude I can neither understand nor accept. Of course this is not music that can be compared to the greats of the piano repertoire but why should it be? It is good in its own right, has charm, flair, plenty of interest and often pure delight. It is music that is as worthy of hearing as any. That is what makes Grand Piano a fantastic source of unknown music by a number of undeservedly neglected composers who would otherwise be unlikely to be heard elsewhere, hence the number of recording firsts. Along with the label there is a need to find pianists who will be interested enough to take the music on. I know that in the case of Giorgio Koukl it is because he believes in it as much as Grand Piano obviously does. Equally Koukl is a perfect choice because of that belief; he is a champion of this area of music that is eschewed by others who are happiest when they record yet another disc of Beethoven or Schubert or Chopin. I am not decrying that but it takes a true servant of music to be prepared to play that which is not well known but who is ready to take on the challenge to have it heard.

To sum up this is music that is always enjoyable, sometimes delightful and occasionally brilliant. Giorgio Koukl plays it with sympathy and if anyone can help it achieve the recognition it deserves, it is he.

Steve Arloff

3 Pičces lyriques (1944)* [14:04]
3 Pičces de danse (1928) [8:15]
Suite brčve (1930)* [8:00]
Petite suite de danse (1924)* [12:00]
Étude (1952)* [0:46]
Rythmes. Cinq inventions pour piano (1929)* [5:47]
12 Petites pičces (1924)* [15:14]
Improvisation sur la chanson ‘Je vais revoir ma Normandie’* [2:25]
Fox-Trot (from 13 Danses) (1929)* [2:21]
Valse, Op.2 (1913)* [3:01]
*World premičre recording

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