Of these two issues, the Scènes de la csárda is brand-new in terms of release-date and extraordinary. What fabulous music! Many of these tunes are indigenous and will be familiar from Liszts Hungarian Rhapsodies. But while Liszt made these national melodies part of the virtuoso piano tradition, Jenö Hubay (1858-1937) is truer to root-earth gypsy tradition. Hagai Shahams playing is pretty fabulous too, so too from the pianist Arnon Erez who certainly knows all about cimbalom imitation! And how pleasurable to have an exact recorded balance between the violin and the piano; the piano is, after all, a partner, not an accompanist.
Hubays music is really a celebration of Hungary its folklore and its folk music, which is of earthy emotions, with fire and heart, plenty of passion, fantasy and pathos. By no means a limited world these two CDs sustain continuous audition very happily. As for the Shahams playing, well, it is quite superb gutsy, colourful, passionate and sensitive but not overdone. Shahams inimitable, innate and absolutely secure playing is totally inside this vibrant music. Fireworks and pathos there are a-plenty, but theres nothing from Shaham that detracts in the sense of him being demonstrative for its own sake. His belief in the music shines through, and his technical bravura, while secondary, is a joy in itself. A wonderful set, then, of exhilarating and moving music, fantastically performed with intrinsic generosity.
After this, one just has to hear the melodic and dramatic concertos and one is not disappointed! The writing for the violin is consummate not surprising given Hubay was a violinist himself, a pupil of Joachim. Hubays own teaching produced a long line of distinguished pupils.
The G minor concerto begins with an introductory fantasia that segues into a scintillating scherzo, one with a macabre touch, which yields to a sweetly lyrical Adagio and then to a fiery finale. Its a really good piece, full of invention. The baroque-influenced A minor work sustains Hubays melodic gifts and includes a perky Corrente e Musette and a rapturous slow movement. The Variations, while full of dash and vigour, are quite introspective at times. Add in a vivid, blooming recording, very sympathetic conducting from Martyn Brabbins theres plenty for the orchestra to do for a CD of music all too easy to enjoy and return to.
Ultimately, though, one salutes Hagai Shahams fabulous playing and his identity with this impressive music. Scènes de la csárda could certainly be one of the records of the year. The booklet note is exemplary.