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Gabriella Lengyel (violin)
Jenő Hubay’s last pupil
rec. 1951-1972
Mono & Stereo
RHINE CLASSICS RH-018 [9 CDs: 685:05]

Gabriella Lengyel was born in Budapest in 1920 and began learning the violin at the city’s Franz Liszt Academy at the age of only five. By fifteen she’d completed all the courses with distinction, obtaining a diploma in violin. She then went to Jenő Hubay and Edouard Zathureczky, who applied the finishing touches. She met success in the 1937 Violin Competition in Vienna, which became a launching pad for her solo career. Concerts in Austria, Italy, France, Holland, the Baltic States and Yugoslavia were received with much acclaim, but repeated invitations were never realized due of the outbreak of war. In 1946 she clinched 2nd Prize in the International Long-Thibaud Competition, and two years later the Grand Prix at the Carl Flesch Competition in London. That same year she fled the Hungarian communist regime and settled in Paris, where she took up a teaching post at the Conservatoire. In 1950 she formed the Trio Lengyel with her two musician brothers Atty and André. She died in Paris in 1993. Throughout her career she worked with some of the most renowned conductors of the day, including Ansermet, Fricsay, van Beinum, Jochum, Solti, Enescu, Casals and Mengelberg. As far as recordings go, she recorded only three commercial LPs in Paris – two private releases for Voxigrave in 1951, and one for Ducretet-Thomson in 1953. Some of these are included in this collection.

CDs 1 and 2 feature works with orchestra, and it’s significant that Jenő Hubay, Lengyel’s teacher, should top the bill. His Violin Concerto No 3 in G minor, Op 99 bears a dedication to Franz von Vecsey, and is the most popular of his four concertos. It presents many technical hazards, which Lengyel surfs with ease, the astounding virtuosity of the finale being a case in point. Listeners will be won over by the Adagio’s romantic lyricism. Respighi’s Poema autunnale also has its magical moments. His rich, colorful orchestration is pointed up to great effect by Jan Koetsier and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Lalo’s perennial Symphonie espagnole is suffused with Iberian flavour. The performance, disappointingly omitting the third movement Intermezzo, revels in the music’s radiant lyricism, and the finale’s fireworks truly ignite proceedings.

Ernest Ansermet directs the Suisse Romande in a riveting traversal of the Brahms Violin Concerto from Geneva on 15 October 1958. The acetate transcription discs have scrubbed up well. Lengyel employs the Joachim cadenza. The violin is well profiled in the balance and, judging by the applause, the audience seem enthusiastic. Haydn’s Concerto for Violin, Keyboard and Strings is a relative rarity, so it’s a welcome inclusion. Atty Lengyel joins his sister for a reading notable for a singularity of vision, with matching phrasing and nuance, and Urs Joseph Flury and the Gerlafingen players are with them all the way.

Brother and sister join forces for a performance of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in F, K547. It’s a joyless reading that never really catches fire, with a sluggish earthbound first movement. Their Schumann I do like, however, and in 1956 they taped the two Violin Sonatas. Maybe the First Sonata lacks some of the ardour and passion you find in some performances, but the Second Sonata more than compensates, with its emotional urgency and lusty exuberance. Lalo’s Violin Sonata in D, Op. 12 hasn’t been aired that much. I’ve never encountered it before, but it’s an attractive work, and is generously melodic. The Duo invest it with warmth and intimacy. The finale positively sparkles with glee. Richard Flury’s Violin Sonata No. 10 in D minor is likewise a work that deserves wider currency, with its outpourings of beguiling lyricism. It has a lovely elegiac second movement and a catchy third marked Polka.

In early 1953, the Duo Legyel set down in the studio of Schweizer Radio in Basel the complete works for violin and piano by Franz Schubert. They are to be found across CDs 4 and 5. These are some of the loveliest works in the repertoire and the Duo offer elegant, stylistic and idiomatic performances. In the three Sonatinas, touched by the influence of Mozart, they emphasize the youthful nature of the music. In the more mature Duo Sonata of 1817 the composer finds his own voice, with the work free of stylistic influences. The finale is particularly fine, here bristling with energy and joy. The Fantasie, Schubert’s masterpiece from 1827, is probably the most frequently performed and recorded of his violin and piano works. The central variation section, on the theme Sei mir gegrüsst, is characterful. In short, it’s a fully integrated performance and stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the very best recorded versions.

Twentieth century composers are well represented. Lengyel plays Ravel’s Violin Sonata with much freedom and fantasy, with the blues movement having a true improvisatory feel. Caution is thrown to the wind in an impressive account of the Poulenc Sonata where all the mixed emotions are laid bare. It’s a captivating journey of bitter-sweet, wistful and lyrical moments. Bartók’s Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano  is cast in two-movements. The glissandi and portamenti, which pepper the opening movement, are carried off with panache. In the second movement the pizzicatos are crisply articulated, and there are some punchy, propulsive rhythms in the brash dance

Those seeking off the beaten track repertoire need look no further, as there’s an ample selection here. Lengyel did much to champion her contemporary fellow Hungarian composers, and several are represented in the set. Here are some that grabbed my attention, where she’s partnered by her brother Atty. Tibor Harsányi was a Kodály pupil and his Violin Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 21 (1925) reflects his interest in the Second Viennese School. Atonal, but not entirely devoid of melody, it has a jaunty finale, with some exciting ear-catching rhythms. Ferenc Farkas’ Sonatina No. 2 is more tonally centred and melodically tuneful. After an upbeat first movement, the slow movement is mournful and sombre. The Scherzando third movement is persistent and repetitive in its ostinato accompaniments. Sándor Veress’ two movement Second Violin Sonata employs some dazzling string effects. The loosely drafted opener contrasts strikingly with the Bartókian rhythms of the second movement. Like Veress, Paul Arma was a pupil of Béla Bartók and the second and fourth movements of his Divertimento de Concert No. 1 are stamped with the imprints of his teacher. In fact the finale could be mistaken for Bartók if you didn’t know otherwise. I’m particularly drawn to the third movement Sostenuto parlando for the stillness and tranquility it evokes. The Violin Sonata of Andor Kovách is embroidered with folk elements and rhythms. The glacial accompanying piano chords of the slow movement have a potent atmospheric effect. The finale‘s discordant harmonies are reinforced by dogged ostinato patterns.

As Hubay’s Third Concerto opened this treasury, so we end with his D major Violin Sonata Op. 22 Romantique in a performance the Lengyel Duo gave in 1958. It’s a lovely work in which I hear the influences of Schumann and Richard Strauss, and this seductive reading basks in its overflowing lyricism.

This wonderful collection, approved by the violinist’s brother Attila (Atty) just a year before his death in 2018, preserves the legacy of this significant artist.  The 24bit 96 kHz restorations by Emilio Pessina are first-class and bring new life to these valuable aural documents. The documentation is superb, and the cache of photographs is an added bonus. This is a collection I wouldn’t like to be without.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: 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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