Scènes de la csárda
Nouveaux poèmes hongrois
Hagai Shaham (violin) &
Arnon Erez (piano)
Recorded in April 1998 in the Jerusalem Music Center
CDA67441/2 (2 CDs)
2 hours 30 minutes
Violin Concerto No.3 in G minor, Op.99
Violin Concerto No.4 in A minor, Op.101 (All antica)
Variations sur un thème hongrois, Op.72
Hagai Shaham (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 13-14 December 2002 in Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: March 2004
CD No: See above
Duration: See above
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 Liszt’s 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 Shaham’s 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.
Hubay’s 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 Shaham’s playing, well, it is quite superb – gutsy, colourful, passionate and sensitive – but not overdone. Shaham’s inimitable, innate and absolutely secure playing is totally inside this vibrant music. Fireworks and pathos there are a-plenty, but there’s 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. Hubay’s 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. It’s a really good piece, full of invention. The baroque-influenced A minor work sustains Hubay’s 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 – there’s plenty for the orchestra to do – for a CD of music all too easy to enjoy and return to.
Ultimately, though, one salutes Hagai Shaham’s 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.