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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Hungarians: From Rozsa to Justus, Ensemble for These Times

There is a world of Hungarian composers many of us outside the zone of hearing may well know not much or nothing about. That is quite clear listening to The Hungarians: From Rozsa to Justus (Centaur CRC 3660). The Ensemble for These Times and soloists bring us a nicely turned sample of music by the likes of Lajos Delej (1923-45), Gyorgy Justus (1898-1945), Miklos Rozsa (1907-95), and Sandor Vandor (1901-45).  You may know Rozsa at least by name, the rest probably not. And this music will doubtless be new to you. Their music is first and foremost Hungarian. It has a Hungarian expressivity and a kind of latent folk strain to it. That before it is Modern, exactly. It is neither quite Modern in some bloop-blip sense, nor then is it gushingly Romantic either.

The performances are quite good.

From Rozsa we have his "Duo for Cello and Piano." From Vandor there is the vocal and piano "Air" (and the vocalist's vibrato is a bit wider than I am used to I must say but otherwise you get the full musical impact), "A fan a levelek," "Kovacs," "borzalom," "Onarckep," all songs. Then we hear a delightful "3 Piano Miniatures" by Delej, followed by his jaunty "Scherzo" for cello and piano. The album closes on Justus's waltz "Ugy neha este" a somewhat sentimental piece that I'll admit seems less compelling to me, with the return of the piano-vocal duo above. I am less moved but try and listen to the notes rather than the performance, which will move you if the music already does somehow I suppose.

I come away from this happy to hear this music. I'll admit I am temperamentally disposed to a Hungarian-inflected classical music and so by nature of the well wrought examples I would not otherwise hear, I am very glad to have this to play again. It is fascinating music and if you are interested in such things it will be a solid and illuminating addition to what you can know and like from that neighboring world.

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