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Gabriella Lengyel (violin)
Jenő Hubay’s Last Pupil
rec. 1954-72
RHINE CLASSICS RH-018 [9 CDs: 683:49]

Gabriella Lengyel (1920-1993) was indeed, as the box announces, Jenő Hubay’s last pupil. Born in Budapest she began at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in the city, winning distinctions and completing all her courses at the age of fifteen, before continuing with Hubay and, after his death in 1937, Ede Zathureczky. She won second prize at the Sixth International Violin Competition in Vienna 1937, but the outbreak of war curtailed a burgeoning career. In 1946 she won another second place, this time at the prestigious International Long-Thibaud competition in Paris, but in 1948 fled Hungary and lived in Paris where she established a long-standing duo with her brother Attila (or Atty). In 1950 they formed a trio with their brother Endre. She performed in Casals’ Prades orchestra (a photograph in the booklet shows her fiddling away) and she made a very few LPs. She taught for many years whilst maintaining a European-based career, making visits to Switzerland, in particular, where she broadcast often for Radio Basel.

Given the near-exiguous nature of her commercial legacy, this 9-CD box comes as manna from violinistic heaven and can be considered alongside another box from this source, that of her fellow Hubay-pupil Wanda Luzzato with whom in 1945 she had performed Bach’s Double Concerto (see review).

Disc 1 brings her teacher Hubay’s Concerto No 3 and Respighi’s Poema autunnale, both with the Bamberg Symphony and Jan Koetsier in 1954. She is much faster than a modern exponent like Hagai Shaham and catches the music’s fluid fantasia quality with great rhythmic precision and sense of colour. Her bowing is crisp in the Scherzo, there is noble ardour and moving intensity in the Adagio, and there is zest in the finale where she negotiates the cadenza with bravura. Vilmos Szabadi and Aaron Rosand made good recordings of this but Lengyel characterises even deeper. Respighi’s work was dedicated to Mario Corti and contemporaries such as Lydia Mordkovitch play it quite deliberately. Even Ricci did so. Nishizaki on Marco Polo however approaches Lenyel in taut sweetness, even more so than Julia Fischer in her 2010 recording on Decca. Lengyel negotiates its changes in mood, tempo and texture at a decisive tempo and her evocative playing is alluring throughout. The final work in this disc is Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, without the Intermezzo (Lucerne, with Max Sturzenegger conducting in March 1960). She is piquant in the Scherzando and witty, with evocative slides and a rich range of coloration; lovely bowing too and not a hint of the infamous Hubay nagging vibrato. There’s real communicative intensity about her playing. Something odd happens briefly at 4:20 in the Andante but I’m not quite sure what it is: there’s a scrunching sound that might have been a broken string but she plays on, so maybe something else happened.

In Disc 2 there are two concertos and a sonata. The first concerto is that of Brahms and mention of the work allows me, in my turn, to mention that the booklet reprints in full the 1942 article that she wrote about studying the work with her teacher. It was printed in the book ‘Jenő Hubay’s Violin Teaching Method. Principles of today’s Hungarian violin education’ and is complete with music examples and her detailed recollections. She clearly wrote down specific instructions from him as these are reproduced; ‘at the top of the bow with short pushed bow’ is a typical example or ‘bring out the mid melody’ or ‘Big swing on the F so the dissonance is felt…’ This concerto shows her control of bow speed and pressure and the variation of vibrato she uses, from rich to off. She plays with metrical flexibility and essays the Joachim cadenza with great command. Her diminuendos are especially fine in the slow movement and so is her sheer tonal purity at a not lingering tempo. Lengyel also has a sense of characterful personalisation and she is more than convincing in that Hungarian finale. Ansermet is the collaborator here with his Suisse Romande forces in October 1958. Next to this, Haydn’s Concerto for violin, keyboard (her brother Atty) and strings might seem small fry. True, there’s a smallish sounding thin orchestra under Urs Joseph Flury and her violin is a touch distant, but the duo ensemble is otherwise fine. The Duo Lengyel play the Mendelssohn F minor sonata in good classical style. Here her vibrato and slides are much less in evidence.

There’s an apposite coupling of Brahms and Schumann sonatas on the third disc. There’s clarity and directness in both the Schumann Sonatas (Opp 105 and 121) and she doesn’t overpress in the Allegretto of the First. She widens her vibrato for the more romanticised elements of the D minor and draws richer tone. She and Luzzato both taped this and the differences in interpretation from these Hubay pupils is instructive. Lengyel, after the pizzicato passage in the third movement, plays almost detaché. Luzzato is by some way the more expressive in this work but Lengyel’s thoughtful approach, decidedly Hubay-esque in its on-off vibrato, is worth hearing stylistically. The Brahms sonata is a rarity, recorded in the studio in Paris in 1951 with pianist Max Geiger, and released on Voxigrave, though with how much distribution I’m not sure. Perhaps because she is not with her brother at the keyboard, this strikes me as a rather cautious and less successful reading. Tempi are rather deliberate, and the balance is not perfect, the piano being a bit too loud.

The Lengyel Duo gave a cycle of Schubert’s complete music for violin and piano for radio broadcast in Basel in early 1953 in good mono and the results take up much of the fourth and fifth discs. The playing is stylish and stylistically convincing and there are good variations of tempi and mood. They play the Trockne Blumen variations, almost always shunned in recitals, very well indeed and the finale of the Rondeau brillant is engaging and lively. The Fantasy in C major is rhythmically well sprung. One can hear her mutter something, but not what, in the rest just before the end of the Allegro vivace finale. Was she counting her brother in? The Sonatinas are unfussy and direct. Ensemble briefly comes adrift in the opening of the D major but there’s expressive breadth in the Andante of the A minor even if the finale of the G minor is a touch under-vitalised. This fifth disc finishes with a generous reading of Mozart’s Sonata No. 36 in F major from 1960 which is closely recorded so that one can hear the piano’s pedal and a refined, graceful performance of Giardini’s Sonata in B flat major, composed the year Mozart was born.

The sixth disc is one of contrast. The siblings perform a suite from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, a good selection which includes ‘If love’s a sweet passion’ and a quite rare chance to hear Lalo’s Sonata in D major, the Grand duo concertant of 1853, albeit in a somewhat boxy mono Parisian broadcast of March 1964. The studio set-up grafts an unusual level of acerbity to her tone. There are two contemporary British works, recorded over a decade apart. First there’s Britten’s Suite, a precocious and clever work that offers a variety of quixotic moods, and Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina of 1942, a decidedly Francophile piece in which the Langyels tease out the wit in the Theme and Variations finale. Richard Flury’s Sonata No 10 was dedicated to both musicians and comes securely wrapped with fluid lyricism and a raffish Polka.

From here on much of the repertoire circles around her Hungarian birth. The selection of 17 Bartók Duos saw her teamed with Anne-Marie Gründer in one of her few commercial LPs, in this case Ducretet-Thomson LAP1008, a 7” disc made in Paris in 1953. The pairing works well and it’s enjoyable to hear the bagpipe evocations, the folkloric dance motifs and the judiciously balanced interplay between the two violinists - resinous and fiery. The three sonatas that end this disc offer sterner demands and receive splendid answer. Lengyel is especially fine in the central movement of Dohnányi’s Sonata in C sharp minor, which is idiomatic and fiery, and in the lovely end to the finale. The Francophile astringency of Tibor Harsányi’s 1925 sonata suits both the violinist and composer, both of whom ended up in Paris. Nor do the duo stint the melancholy of its Lento central movement or the exciting dance finale. The siblings are fully attuned to Bartók’s quasi-improvisatory manner in his Violin Sonata No 2 and their command of the music’s shifting syntax and ethereally quiet moments are both irresistible.

CD8 is packed with good things. She announces – very briefly – a performance of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. The piano spectrum may be a little watery in this 1952 master but there’s an assured colourful confidence to the rhythms. The individual dances are not separately tracked. Ferenc Farkas’ Sonatina No 2 was composed in 1931 and dedicated to Zathureczky, one of Lengyel’s old teachers. Its taut neo-classicism enshrines a lovely lied as well as fruitful dissonance. There are two preserved performances here of this work, one from RTF Paris in 1954 and the other from Radio Suisse Romande four years later, and they are both very similar. Léo Weiner’s brief wedding dance called Lakodalmas is splendidly sophisticated whilst Nándor Zsolt’s fairy tale Satyr and Dryads is a charmingly insouciant piece of drollery complete with violin whistling. Sándor Veress is perhaps better known for his friendship with Sándor Végh but here the Lengyel duo plays his Sonata No 2 of 1939. This intense, ruminative work is set in two contrasting movements, the first slow, terse but beautiful, and the second fast and fiery. The final work in this disc is by the least known Hungarian composer here, Andor Kovách, whose Sonata was written in 1951 and performed on Lausanne radio in 1960. Crisp and dramatic, it sports a rather listless central slow movement, and a finale that oscillates between exuberance and coiled, dark introspection.

The final disc doesn’t stint variety. Paul Arma’s 1957 Divertimento de Concert No 1 was performed in the year of its composition, so I wonder if the Duo premiered the piece. It has neo-classical elements but is also frisky and quietly intense with a parlando melancholy and a Bartókian folklorically-infused finale. Ravel’s Sonata is idiomatically done – the Duo had long since imbibed the Parisian spirit – and they balance the extrovert and deeply introspective elements enshrined in Poulenc’s Sonata dedicated to the memory of Lorca. The final work, appropriately (we began with him) is Hubay’s Sonata in D major, Op 22 subtitled Romantique, composed in 1884. Recorded in Basel the year after the earlier duo recital, which was taped in Darmstadt in October 1957, the Hubay is heard in the better sound. This suits the lyric and songful romanticism of Hubay’s sonata.

I mentioned the booklet earlier and it’s been splendidly compiled with some very beautifully reproduced photographs of the violinist, concert posters and a reproduction of a colour drawing of her by Willy Hug, which was donated to Richard Flury. There is a brief chronology of her life and very full track details and dates. In every way the documentation and transfers are worthy of this eminent but too-little known violinist.

Jonathan Woolf
CD1 | 71:40
Jenő Hubay
Violin Concerto No 3 in G minor, Op 99 (1906/07)
Ottorino Respighi
Poema autunnale, for violin and orchestra P.146 (1925)
Bamberger Symphoniker | Jan Koetsier
recorded: live in studio BR | Dominikanerbau, Bamberg | 23 August 1954
Édouard Lalo
Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op 21 (1874)
Orchester der Allgemeinen Musikgesellschaft Luzern | Max Sturzenegger
recorded: live | Schweizer Radio DRS | Kunsthaus, Luzern | 24 March 1960

CD2 | 78:35
broadcast announce / applause
Johannes Brahms
Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77 (Cadenza: Joachim)
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande | Ernest Ansermet
recorded: live | Radio Suisse Romande RSR | Victoria Hall, Geneva | 15 October 1958
Franz Joseph Haydn
Concerto for Violin & Keyboard in F major, Hob.XVIII:6
Duo Gabriella & Atty Lengyel
Orchesterverein Gerlafingen | Urs Joseph Flury
recorded: live | Werkhotel Gerlafingen, CH | 11 March 1972
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Violin Sonata in F minor, Op 4, MWV Q 12 (1823)
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 29 March 1960
Gabriella Lengyel, violin
Atty Lengyel, piano

CD3 | 73:09
Robert Schumann
- Violin Sonata No 1 in A minor, Op 105
- Violin Sonata No 2 in D minor, Op 121 “Große Sonate”
Atty Lengyel, piano
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 10 February 1956
Johannes Brahms
Violin Sonata No 1 in G major, Op 78
Max Geiger, piano
recorded: studio | Paris | 1951
LP 10”, 33-1/3 rpm, Voxigrave | ℗1951

CD4 | 77:23
Schubert | complete violin and piano works (I) :
Franz Schubert
- Duo (Violin Sonata) in A major, D.574 / Op 162 (1817)
- Variations in E minor “Trockne Blumen”, D.802 / Op 160 (1824)
- Rondeau brillant in B minor, D.895 / Op 70 (1826)
- Fantasy in C major, D.934 / Op 159 (1827)
Atty Lengyel, piano
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 21-22 January 1953

CD5 | 78:12
Schubert | complete violin and piano works (II) :
Franz Schubert
3 Sonatinas Op 137 (1816):
- Violin Sonata No 1 in D major, D.384
- Violin Sonata No 2 in A minor, D.385
- Violin Sonata No 3 in G minor, D.408
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 13 February 1953
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Sonata No 36 in F major, K.547
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 29 March 1960
Felice Giardini (1716-1796)
Violin Sonata in B-flat major (c. 1756)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 10 February 1958
Atty Lengyel, piano

CD6 | 77:23
Henry Purcell
Suite from “The Fairy Queen” (arr. for Violin and Piano)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 5 December 1956
broadcast announce
Édouard Lalo
Violin Sonata in D major, Op 12 “Grand duo concertant” (1853)
recorded: studio | RTF | Paris | 31 March 1964
Benjamin Britten
Suite for Violin and Piano Op 6 (1934/35)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 13 August 1954
Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
Sonatina for Violin and Piano Op 17 (1942)
recorded: studio | Hessischer Rundfunk | Frankfurt | 29 March 1966
Richard Flury (1896-1967)
Violin Sonata No 10 in D minor (1960) [to Gabriella & Attila Lengyel]
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 19 May 1961
Atty Lengyel, piano

CD7 | 78:36
Béla Bartók
Duos (44) for 2 Violins, Sz.98 (1931) -17 numbers- :
Nos. 25-27, 29-36a, 38, 41-44
Anne-Marie Gründer, violin II
recorded: studio | Paris | 1953
EP 7”, 33-1/3 rpm, Ducretet-Thomson LAP 1008 | ℗1953
Ernő Dohnányi
Violin Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op 21 (1911)
Tibor Harsányi (1898-1954)
Violin Sonata in C-sharp minor (1925)
Béla Bartók
Violin Sonata No 2, Sz.76 (1922)
Atty Lengyel, piano
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 25 January 1952

CD8 | 72:43
announce by Gabriella Lengyel
Béla Bartók
Romanian Folk Dances (6), Sz.56 (1915) (arr. Zoltan Székely)
recorded: studio | Solothurn, CH | February 1952
Ferenc Farkas (1905-2000) -1st performance-
Sonatina No 2 for Violin and Piano (1931)
Léo Weiner (1885-1960)
Verbunkos - Wedding Dance for Violin and Piano, Op 21b
Nándor Zsolt (1887-1936)
Satyr and Dryads - Fairy Tale for Violin and Piano (1922)
recorded: studio | RTF | Paris | 15 March 1954
Sándor Veress (1907-1992)
Violin Sonata No 2 (1939)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 13 September 1954
Ferenc Farkas -2nd performance-
Sonatina No 2 for Violin and Piano (1931)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 10 February 1958
Andor Kovách (1915-2005)
Violin Sonata (1951)
recorded: studio | Radio Suisse Romande | Lausanne | 16 March 1960
Atty Lengyel, piano

CD9 | 77:24
Paul Arma (1905-1987)
Divertimento de Concert No 1 for Violin and Piano (1957)
Maurice Ravel
Violin Sonata No 2 in G major, M.77 (1923/27)
Francis Poulenc
Violin Sonata, FP.119 (1942/43; rev.1949)
recorded: live | Darmstadt | 18 October 1957
Jenő Hubay (1858-1937)
Violin Sonata in D major, Op 22 “Romantique” (1884)
recorded: studio | Schweizer Radio DRS | Basel | 6 February 1958
Atty Lengyel, piano

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