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Hyperion Records

CDA67441/2 - Hubay: Scčnes de la csárda
CDA67441/2

Recording details: April 1998
Jerusalem Music Centre, Israel
Produced by Eric Wen
Engineered by Vadim Beili
Release date: March 2004
Total duration: 148 minutes 50 seconds

TOP RECOMMENDATION (CHAMBER) (BBC Music Magazine)

'If ever there were a case of 'the singer, not the song' it's here with these Scènes de la csárda, attractive music played with the sort of heart-tugging abandon that many of us only know from old 78s. A happy tale from start to finish, kitsch of the highest order served with style and panache by Shaham and his excellent pianist Arnon Erez. With comprehensive annotation by Amnon Shaham and first rate production by Eric Wen (a fine violinist and teacher) this seems set to become a benchmark recording' (Gramophone)

'It's music that needs passionate advocacy if it's not to sound trite, and Hagai Shaham, who's already made an outstanding disc of two of Hubay's Violin Concertos, has it in his soul' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Hagai Shaham has tremendous flair, extraordinary technical facility, and an organic musical sense that makes it difficult to stop listening' (American Record Guide)

'The quality and commitment of the playing, beautifully recorded, gives considerable if unchallenging pleasure' (The Strad)

'Hagai Shaham's achievement here is heroic, and a monument to violin playing … if you are a violin sort of person, and the repertoire appeals, then buy these discs with confidence, as a tribute to a unique act of devotion to the cause by Shaham and Erez' (Fanfare, USA)

'Scènes de la csárda could certainly be one of the records of the year' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Voici sans doute le plus bel hommage rendu au père fondateur de l'école hongroise de violon … un répertoire rare, servi de magistrale façon' (Diapason, France)

Scènes de la csárda
CD1
CD2

These generously filled CDs present sparkling performaces of Hubay’s epic Scènes de la csárda alongside his two sets of Poèmes hongrois and provide their first complete recording.

The Scènes are in the tradition of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, Brahms’s Hungarian Dances and Sarate’s Zigeunerweisen, and reflect the nineteenth century’s fondness for romanticized gypsy music as a worthy source of entertainment in middle-class salons and at aristocratic balls. Written over a period of some forty years, these fourteen perfectly crafted showpieces are dedicated individually to many of the period’s most influential figures, several famous violin virtuosi among them. Passionate melodies and furious violinistic pyrotechnics combine to make this set into a classic of the genre.

Hubay’s two sets of Poèmes hongrois, written in 1885 and 1899 respectively, take further folk-like melodies and transform them into highly elaborate miniatures every bit as worthy of exploration as their more glamorous cousins, the Scènes.

A comprehensive booklet includes music examples illustrating each of the innumerable melodies used by Hubay.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The late-nineteenth-century view of Hungarian folk music was coloured by two popular sets of works: Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies and Johannes Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. At the time it was believed that Hungarian music derived from the folk music of the peasants and, in particular, the gypsies. Furthermore, Liszt’s book Des Bohémiens et de leur musique en Hongrie (‘The gypsies and their music in Hungary’), written in 1859, helped spread this idea further.

In fact, much of what was popularized as ‘gypsy’ music had its origins in the popular music of the middle classes rather than in the true Magyar folk tradition. The majority employed popular melodies of the early nineteenth century, often drawn from bands as well as from operatic and stage music by composers such as Ignác Bognár, Miska Borzó, Béni Egressy, Béla Kéler, N Mérty, Adolf Nittinger, Kálmán Simonffy, Elemér Szentirmay, Lujza Oláh, János Lavotta and János Bihari. Only after the rigorous ethnomusicological research into Hungarian folk music pioneered by Bartók and Kodály in the early twentieth century was a true distinction made between ‘genuine’ and ‘pastiche’ gypsy music.

Nevertheless, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, gypsy bands became extremely popular, especially in restaurants and taverns. These ensembles were usually made up of a principal violin (the ‘prímás’), a double bass (or cello) and a cimbalom (a stringed instrument played with two wooden hammers). Other instruments, such as the ‘tárogató’ (a relative of the clarinet family) and a second violin or viola, were sometimes added. At times these ensembles could be expanded to as many as one hundred members. This ‘gypsy’ music provided a worthy source of entertainment for the middle classes, and one particular form, the csárdas, became fashionable at aristocratic balls (such as Prince Orlofsky’s party depicted in Act II of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus).

Hubay’s Scčnes de la csárda follow Liszt’s model and were composed over a period of forty years, from 1879 until 1920. They were intended for the composer’s own use, both in concert performance and for teaching. Originally written for violin and piano, some were later orchestrated by the composer, and many of them were dedicated to prominent violinists as well as other important contemporary figures.

Hubay composed two sets of Počmes hongrois. Opus 27, the first of them, was composed in 1885. The set of six short pieces based on popular, folk-like melodies is dedicated to the Czech violinist František Ondrícek; each individual piece is dedicated to a violinist or a friend.

The Nouveaux počmes hongrois are dedicated to the violinist Jaques Thibaud. The subtitle ‘On popular themes’ indicates the origin of the melodies. Unlike the first, this second set of Počmes is highly elaborate and uses more than one melody in most of the pieces. It was written during a prolific period for the composer in 1899 as his Opus 76.

Amnon Shaham © 2004

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