Zoltan Kodaly: "Hary Janos" - suite
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Toni Koves, cimbalom ~ Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati
Recorded: 17 November 1956
- Northrop Auditorium, Minnesota
Zoltan Kodaly: "Peacock Variations"
Bela Bartok: "The Miraculous Mandarin" - suite
Kodaly - MMA 11072
Since 1905, Kodaly has collected some 4,000 Hungarian folk songs, yet few of these have actually found their way into his own music. In the Hary Janos Suite, for example, only the Intermezzo contains a folk melody - the Dance of Courtship, which dates back to 1800.
First produced at the Budapest Royal Opera on October 16, 1926, the opera Hary Jdnos ' was an immediate success and from it the composer subsequently extracted an orchestral suite. In the latter form, it has become his most popular composition.
The libretto is based on the story of a veteran hussar of the Austro-Hungarian army who sits in the village inn day after day regaling his listeners with such fantastic tales of heroism as the time he single-handedly shoved a house across the Austrian border and off Russian soil, and how he slew a seven-headed dragon.
The orchestral suite contains four other incidents in the fantasy-life of this latter-day Walter Mitty, described in the composer's own words: "According to a Hungarian superstition, if a statement is followed by a sneeze of one of the hearers, it is regarded as confirmation of its truth.
The Suite begins with a sneeze of this kind! One of Hary's group of faithful listeners, who sneezes at the wildest assertions of the old tale-spinner, is equal to the occasion even when Hary declares that he once had occasion to subdue Napoleon himself!
With a suggestion of this sneeze, 'the tale begins '. (No. 1 of the suite.)
The other movements may be described as follows:-
No. 2 - Viennese Musical Clock. The scene is laid at the Imperial Castle in Vienna, where the ingenuous Hungarian lad is amazed and enraptured by the famous 'Music Box ' with its little soldier figures in their brave uniforms appearing at every rotation of the marvellous machine.
No. 3 - Song. Hary and his sweetheart long for their village home, its quiet evenings musical with love songs.
No. 4 - The Battle and Defeat of Napoleon. Hary, the General, in command of his hussars, confronts the French army. He brandishes his sword, and lo, the French begin to fall before him like tin soldiers! First, two at a time, then four, eight, ten, and so on. Finally, there are no more French soldiers left and Napoleon is forced to engage in person the invincible Hary. Hary's fantasy pictures a Napoleon made in the image of his own very peasant imagination, an immensely tall and formidable Napoleon, who, shaking in his every limb, kneels before his conquerer and pleads for mercy. The ironical French victory march is transformed into a dirge.
No. 5 - Intermezzo ... of no special significance.
No. 6 - Entrance of the Emperor and his Court. An ironical march of triumph in which Hary pictures his entry into the Imperial Court in Vienna; but it is not a realistic account, only a Hungarian peasant's way of imagining the rich happiness of the celebrated Wiener Burg."
In 1922, Bartok wrote the following analysis of Kodaly's music. " It must be particularly emphasized that it is not ' modern ' in the current sense of the word. It has nothing in common with atonal, bi-tonal or polytonal tendencies: everything remains based on the principle of balanced tonality. Yet his musical language is entirely new and expresses musical ideas never heard before, thus proving that tonality is not yet completely exhausted."
Among Kodaly's youthful compositions, his chamber music is outstanding in particular, the magnificent Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello. Among his later works, three are of major importance - the Concerto for Orchestam, written in 1940 for the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the Peacock Variations, composed in 1939 for the 50th anniversary of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra; and the Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli, written during the harrowing days when the armies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were battling amid the rubble of the once proud and beautiful city that was Budapest.
The Peacock Variations were heard for the first time on November 23, 1939 with Willem Mengelberg conducting the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. Antal Dorati introduced the Peacock Variations to American listeners over the Columbia Broadcasting System during August of 1946; and in November of the same year Kodaly himself conducted the first American concert performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The music takes its title from the Hungarian folk tune on which it is based Fly, Peacock, Fly, a song whose words would seem to make the peacock a symbol of freedom from the political oppression which seems to have been part of Hungarian life for the greater part of three centuries. The theme itself follows the pentatonic scale pattern common to many Magyar melodies - in this instance working its way downward over the compass of a ninth in such a fashion that two intervals of a perfect fifth around a common centre are the result. Thus, Kodaly has given himself extremely malleable thematic material with which to work, despite the restrictions imposed by the pentatonic pattern. After exposing this Peacock theme in several guises throughout the introduction - beginning in the lowest string registers, carrying it through the full string body in high register, then concluding with a pastorale treatment - Kodaly then exploits the expressive and colouristic potentialities of his theme throughout a series of sixteen variations and Finale. Since the music was written for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, it is not surprising that the tone-poetry, which is the essence of Kodaly's approach to his musical materials, should also include an abundance of virtuoso solo and colouristic elements which make this score a superb orchestral showpiece. In general, it can be said that Kodaly treats his theme along three different lines - the partando-rubato manner so typical of Hungarian folk and national music ; the folk-dance ; and the genre type of variation such as the chorale, funeral march and pastorale. Though the orchestra used is of normal classical make-up with only harps as extras, Kodaly extracts from it an astonishing wealth of colour, due in large measure to his extraordinary skill as a harmonist and the uncanny sense of contrast which has made him link the variations together in the most effective possible sequence.
Bartok - MMA 11068
From the standpoint of number and variety of forces used, Bela Bartok's music for The Miraculous Mandarin is his most elaborate score for full orchestra, calling as it does for such additions as organ and an unusually large ensemble of percussion. Composed during 1918 and 1919 to a lurid Scenario by Menyhert Lengyel, The Miraculous Mandarin was banned time after time an stage work, achieving a first performance only in 1925 at Cologne. The concert version of the score recorded here was played for the first time in 1928 by the Philharmonic Society at Budapest. Not until after the second World War was The Miraculous Mandarin produced widely on the stage throughout Europe. In 1951 it was finally given in New York by the New York City Ballet with choreography by Todd Bolender. Despite the details of the scenario, which have been described as a horrible mixture of the macabre, the grotesque and the perverse, the essence of this work, particularly in terms of its music, lies in its searing delineation of the unconquerable power of human aspiration - even beyond death itself. The scene of the pantomime is a tawdry room in the busiest quarter of an unnamed metropolis. A street girl is forced by two hoodlums to lure likely prospects to the room, where they will be speedily divested of their money. Their first attempts bring in turn only a threadbare roue and a penniless youth, both of whom are brutally ejected. Formidable, but infinitely more promising of material reward is a sinister looking Chinese mandarin. The girl is frightened, but she seeks to attract him - timidly at first, then with dancing of unabashed sensuality. During all this the mandarin has remained outwardly impassive, only the burning glance of his eyes fixed upon the girl betrays the intensity of his desire. The reaction, when it does come, explodes in.the form of the mandarin's relentless pursuit of the girl, whom he finally seizes (here the music of the concert suite concludes); but the hoodlums break in and strip the mandarin of jewels and money. Determined now to kill him, they smother him with pillows; but he remains alive, trembling with passion, his eyes fixed immovably upon the girl. A rusty sword is thrust into his body, but still his eyes fasten themselves upon the girl with unfulfilled longing. He is hung by the neck from a chandelier. It falls and in the darkness the mandarin's body glows with a ghastly greenish hue, his eyes still glaring at the girl. With the instinct that is woman's, she at last allows compassion to hold sway over her and embraces the mandarin with utmost tenderness. His unquenchable longing fulfilled at last, his wounds begin to bleed and merciful death comes to him as the curtain slowly falls.
The concert version of the music for The Miraculous Mandarin follows the scenario up to the climax of the Mandarin's pursuit of the girl. The ferociously violent opening pages not only set the mood for the lurid happenings on the stage, but also are meant to evoke the hurly-burly of street life in a modern metropolis. The episodes in which the girl entices passers-by from the street are three in number, each marked by a cadenza-like clarinet motif. The crude degeneracy of the roue and the shyness of the youth are unmistakably characterised in Bartok's music, as are the respective moments of unceremonious rejection. The approach of the mandarin is heralded by a pentatonic theme played by muted brass in augmented fourths; but it is the climactic sequence of chords for open brass and percussion which follow that tells us this mandarin is no ordinary mortal. The music depicting the girl's dance before the Mandarin ranges in expression from utter timidity to a wildly sensual waltz-like climax; and in the course of this, fragments of the motif associated with the Mandarin hint at the reaction which is to come. The music of the chase is of an overwhelming kinetic fury matched only by Stravinsky in his Rite of Spring (recorded by Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra on Mercury MG50030). It is cast, appropriately enough, in fugal texture with a pounding percussion ostinato to heighten the rhythmic excitement which follows a virtually uninterrupted crescendo to its explosive end.
Bela Bartok's score for The Miraculous Mandarin constitutes as challenging a test for high-fidelity listening equipment as it does for the recording engineer. The opening pages are not only extremely complex in texture, but call upon the most extreme dynamic resources of the orchestra, including organ pedals. There follow a series of episodes in which the solo clarinet assumes a role of major importance. The final pages again call upon the utmost powers of the orchestra, especially in the percussion and brass division. Mercury Living Presence has captured every detail of this score on this disc, ranging from the most overpowering climaxes to the most subtle nuances of the many instrumental solos.
For its other choice on this record Mercury takes pride in offering a brilliant reading of music from the pen of the young Bartok; - his Second Suite For Orchestra, Op. 4, which was completed in 1907. The first three movements were composed in Vienna during 1905, the year in which Bartok, together with his friend Zoltan Kodaly, set forth to the remote rural areas of Hungary, there to mine the then virtually unknown riches of Hungarian peasant music (this as distinguished from the Gypsy music fostered by Liszt and others as Hungarian folk music). The final movement was written in Hungary during 1907 after Bartok and Kodaly had published their initial discoveries in the field of Magyar folk melody. The revisions made by Bartok to his Second Suite in 1943 (the year which saw composition of the Concerto for Orchestra) affected only the two final movements. A few bars were excised from the third movement, but in the finale the piui mosso and Vivo episodes which contain the most dynamic materials of the movement were almost completely recast (though from the same basic materials) and drastically condensed. The result, in the case of this final movement, was to achieve an effect of more striking contrast in dynamics and expression.
In the autumn of 1908, Bartok himself conducted the Scherzo of the Second Suite in Berlin at the invitation of Ferruccio Busoni. The audience reaction was sharply divided, but the 27-year-old composer was delighted with the playing of the orchestra. The following year the complete score had its premiere in Budapest.
The music of the Second Suite is scored for essentially a normal classical orchestra with three horns and the rest of the winds in twos. There are no trombones, but use is made of contra-bassoon and bass clarinet. The percussion section includes timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine and gong. Two harps play an extremely important role in terms of rhythm and coloration throughout the music's entire course. A certain aura of Richard Strauss and of Debussy seems to pervade certain pages of the Second Suite (not exactly surprising!), but there are any number of places (in the Scherzo especially) where the young lion shows his claws and where we even sense a certain kinship between this work and the 1943 Concerto for Orchestra (Scherzo and Finale).
A lyrical-pastoral tone is set at the opening of the Comodo first movement, as the harp sets a rhythmic pattern and the solo cello sings an idyllic yet intense melody against a commentary by divisi strings. All the subsequent musical events of the movement derive from the whole or part of this theme, and they reveal themselves in such varied and colourful fashion - now richly romantic, now mildly sardonic - that it is no easy matter on first hearing to trace the exact connection with the movement's opening pages. The second movement, Allegro scherzando, is singularly brilliant and dramatic. Dance patterns dominate the first section, and out of these is generated the figuration and sharp downward leap that is to become a thrillingly dramatic fugue -a fugue which calls to mind in some of its aspects that in the finale of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata for piano. After the fugue has run its brilliant course, the dance materials of the opening re-appear and are worked up to a climax of overwhelming power. The Coda features the solo violin with an amusing Gypsy parody of the fugue subject. The Andante third movement offers the most sheerly romantic writing of the Second Suite. The bass clarinet sets the mood with a long cadenza-like introduction that reminds one irresistibly of an improvisation on the Hungarian peasant wind instrument called the tarogato. This is no mere cadenza, however, for it contains (like the cello solo in the first movement) all the thematic constituents for the remainder of the movement. Lyrical intensity together with a strong evocation of the spacious Hungarian countryside would seem to be the dominant expressive elements of these pages. The orchestral coloration, featuring as it does the harps and sharp contrast between woodwinds and brass in upper and lower registers, possesses an almost Debussyian iridescence. The Comodo finale is the most folk-like in atmosphere. Harps and timpani set a softly throbbing rhythmic gattern over which the solo bassoon sings a charming tune which is taken up by the other woodwinds in a harmonic texture dominated by thirds, fifths and sixths. The idyllic feeling thusy engendered is subjected to rude interruption of seemingly unrelated elements hurled forth piu mosso by the full orchestra; but the initial thematics re-assert themselves in the form of variation and development, which reach a peak of intensity, then subside for another violent and climactic interruption (vivo) of the elements heard first in the piii mosso. There follows in slow tempo (molto quieto) a coda of the utmost serenity, the orchestral colour of which is of the most gorgeous sunset hue.
In company with the other Be1a Bartok scores cited above, this Second Suite from the pen of the Hungarian master, seems to have been ' made-toorder ' for recording; for it is characteristic of Bartok's music that the instrumentation should be of the most brilliant clarity, yet offer extraordinary range of colour. At the same time, the melodic lines stand forth like those of a fine woodcut. These are some of the qualities which make the music of Bartok such a 'natural' for Mercury's single microphone Living Presence recording technique. Together with this, Mercury is singularly fortunate in having Bartok's friend and pupil, Antal Dorati, to document this music on discs in truly authentic readings with the Minneapolis Symphony - an orchestra Mr. Dorati has developed into a virtuoso ensemble of the first magnitude.
The recording of the Bartok Second Suite was done at Northrop Memorial Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus during November 1955. The orchestra was arranged in normal concert set-up on the bare stage during the entire course of the recording; and the single microphone was also maintained in one position throughout. The master tapes, recorded on Fairchild tape machines, were not subjected to monitoring at any time. The transfer from tape to disc was done from a Fairchild tape machine to a Miller cutting head mounted on a Scully variable pitch recording lathe - thus assuring absolute fidelity of the finished disc record to the dynamics, frequency range and tonal balances recorded on the original master tapes.
Ever since the meteoric rise of Eugene Ormandy to the coveted post of Musical Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the assumption by Dimitri Mitropoulos of the conductorship of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, the post of conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra has come to be regarded as a major stepping stone to world-wide acclaim and recognition in the conductorial realm.
Antal Dorati, since he took over the direction of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1949, seems to be running true to form in thi: respect; for his leadership of the major orchestras of Europe has been hailed as ' musical interpretation of the highest order.'
Despite the fact that he is still in his early 40's, Antal Dorati has behind him 25 years of baton experience, dating to the time when as an 18-year-old he was directing opera in his home city of Budapest, Hungary. Indeed, Dorati was the youngest musician to receive a degree from the Academy of Music there, where he numbered among his teachers the celebrated composers, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. His early years as a conductor encompassed work with Fritz Busch at the Dresden Opera, as well as experience on his own at Milnster. In 1933 began an association with ballet, when he joined the Monte Carlo Ballet Russe. He continued to work with this and other ballet companies until 1945, when he was invited to be conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It was Dorati's ' ballet period ' which gave birth to most of his delightful orchestral arrangements from the music of Johann Strauss (Graduation Ball), Jacques Offeribach (Bluebeard, Helen of Troy). While at Dallas, Dorati also made a widely performed concert suite from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.
Although Antal Dorati had become known far and wide throughout America through his many brilliant guest appearances, it was his magnificent achievement at Dallas, where he reorganised and trained that city's orchestra to be one of the nation's finest, which led to the invitation to come to Minneapolis following the departure of Dimitri Mitropoulos for New York. In Minneapolis, Dorati is repeating on a broader scale the accomplishments of his Dallas days, bringing the Minneapolis Symphony to the highest peak of technical and musical perfection it has yet known in its nearly 50 years of existence.
Among the major orchestras of America, the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra has had a particularly distinctive ' personality' - in the sense that its style of performance and texture of sonority can be mistaken for no other. It is the zest of its rhythmic drive and the vital warmth of its lyrical playing which constitute the major factors in the collective personality of the Minneapolis ensemble. From the days of its founder-conductor, Emil Oberhoffer, through the period of leadership by Henry Verbrugghen, to the brilliant era of Ormandy, Mitropoulos and Antal Dorati, this 'personality' of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra has been maturing, deepening and gaining added refinement and subtlety. It is this last pair of qualities that have been the special contribution of Antal Dorati, who as a conductor has a particular flair for eliciting from his players wonderful blendings of instrumental colour and delicate dynamic gradations.
With this and the other Living Presence recordings done by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra for the Olympian Series, Mercury seeks to bring to the listening public a true representation of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, both as a performing organisation and as a warmly vivid collective personality '.