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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Istvan Anhalt, The Timber of Those Times, Ajtony Csaba, SALT Festival Orchestra, Hungarian Radio Symphony

Four and five movements each comprise the two orchestral works featured on The Timber of Those Times (Centrediscs 26419). We hear the music of Istvan Anhalt--a masterful composer who left us in 2012 at age 92 after gracing Canada's music world and creating New Music like the two here, the title piece plus "Four Portraits from Memory," both completed in 2006.

These are symphonic odes of great Modern gravitas, even a kind of dark quality, soundtracks abstract and moody, capturing some of the tenor indeed of the post-9-11 world.

Anhalt was born into an assimilated Hungarian Jewish family in 1919 and made his way to Canada by 1949 where he was a staple of the avant music world for decades.

Ajtony Csaba directs most capably the SALT Festival Orchestra (for the "Four Portraits")  and the Hungarian Radio Symphony (for the "Timber" work) and we get an excellent bird's eye view of the two, Anhalt's last orchestral works. One might imagine further development in performance practice but this captures the essence of it all and we can be thankful for that.

It is widely tonal, sometimes on the edge of a key center, sometimes quite strident, and most somber--and of course music should express as much of a broad spectrum of feelings and views as any of our other arts so if this is not expressly "happy" there is nothing wrong with that, of course. It is relentlessly dramatic and we find ourselves enthralled in the experience of it, or I do anyway.

Anhalt shows himself a one-of-a-kind stylist, like Bergman or Berg an artist of complex moods. You should give this a listen, surely. It stands out from the pack. Modern adherents take note! Take ALL of the notes.

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