April 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Miklós RÓZSA (1907 – 1996)
String Quartet No. 1 Op. 22 (1950)
String Quartet No. 2 Op. 38 (1981)
Sonata for two Violins Op.15a (1933, rev. 1973)
  The Flesch Quartet (Philippa Ibbotson, Mark Denman, violins; Robert Gibbs, viola and violina; David Newby, cello)
Recorded: St Silas Church, Kentish Town, January 2000 (string quartets) and Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, Weston, Hertfordshire, August 2000
  ASV CD DCA 1105 [64:13]


Miklós Rózsa’s undisputed reputation as a composer of substantial film scores has often obscured his remarkable achievement in the field of pure, abstract music. Throughout his busy career in Hollywood, he managed to compose a sizeable body of substantial concert works. Over the last ten years or so, many of his major orchestral works, including his superb concertos, have been recorded . The credit then went to KOCH. Now, ASV fill an important gap in Rózsa’s discography with the present recordings of his string quartets and of his Sonata Op.15a for two violins.

In the early 1930s, Rózsa composed a string quartet of which he later banned any performance or publishing though the complete score exists in the archives deposited at the University of Syracuse. (Curiously enough Rózsa allotted the same opus number [Op.6] to his masterly symphony completed in 930.)

So, Rózsa’s official String Quartet No.1 Op.22 was completed in 1949 and revised in 1950. It is a substantial, ambitious work in four sizeable movements of which the slow movement Lento is the emotional core. This impassioned meditation was later scored for string orchestra by the late Christopher Palmer under Rózsa’s supervision (available on KOCH 3-7152). The first movement, a set of variations rather than the customary sonata-form shape, is followed by a nervous Scherzo in modo ongarese in which the composer’s Hungarian roots are clearly evident. The First String Quartet finishes with a lively Rondo alternating an angular first subject and a more lyrical second subject, and ends with an exalted coda.

Written thirty years later, the String Quartet No.2 Op.38 is clearly a mature work in which the material, still recognisably Rózsa and Hungarian, is more intricately developed. The quartet’s four highly characterised movements are closely thematically related, and the work as a whole has a greater structural and thematic coherence than its companion. Again, the playful Scherzo, placed third this time, is All’Ungherese. By the time the Second String Quartet was composed, Rózsa’s formal mastery had reached its peak, and the quartet’s musical argument is worked out with a sure hand. This might well be one of Rózsa’s finest concert works.

The earlier Sonata for two Violins Op.15a, composed in 1933 and revised in 1973 as Op.15a, is somewhat lighter in mood. It sometimes recalls Bartok’s Duos, albeit on a more substantial scale. This is a truly delightful work.

As far as I can judge, the Flesch Quartet’s performances are excellent and are warmly recorded. The present release is a real winner and is warmly recommended with the secret hope that ASV will soon follow-up with a recording of some other chamber works by Rózsa, such as the String Trio Op.1 and the Piano Quintet Op.2.

Hubert Culot

[no rating]

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