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Viola Recital: Magyar, Eniko - BLISS, A. / DELIUS, F. / BRIDGE, F. (The English Viola)


Naxos 8.572407

   BBC Music Magazine, July 2010
   Music & Vision, May 2010
   Gramophone, May 2010
   Fanfare, May 2010
   Otago Daily Times, April 2010
   American Record Guide, March 2010
   Classic FM, February 2010
   MusicWeb International, February 2010
   The WholeNote, February 2010
   Classic FM, February 2010
   The Strad, February 2010
   The Indianapolis Star, January 2010
   San Jose Mercury News, January 2010
   MusicWeb International, January 2010
   Infodad.com, January 2010
   Toronto Star, December 2009
   Amazon.com, December 2009
   Amazon.com, December 2009
   Toronto Star, December 2009
   Minnesota Public Radio, November 2009
   David's Review Corner, November 2009
   Classical Music Sentinel, November 2009

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Malcolm Hayes
BBC Music Magazine, July 2010

Standards of solo viola-playing are so high these days that it’s no surprise to hear what Hungary’s Eniko Magyar can achieve with what used to be considered an underpowered instrument. She extracts a near cello-like weight of tone; in the extreme top register, the fullness and purity of the sound is remarkable; and wherever possible, she finds a lovely range of light and shade…Delius’s quite short Sonata is a…substantial and individual creation, giving Magyar the scope to respond with playing of grace and loveliness—as she also does in Bridge’s collection of seven viola pieces…



Gerald Fenech
Music & Vision, May 2010

The lot of English composers who were active in the years between the two great wars has somewhat diminished again of late, especially with Frederick Delius, whose music is hardly ever played today. Happily this beautifully executed and superbly recorded disc will throw fresh light on another underrated instrument: the viola, which is used with great skill by all three composers here in varied works.

Arthur Bliss brings a jazzy penchant to the instrument which is quite superbly caught by the young Hungarian violist Eniko Magyar. She has a beautiful dulcet tone, quite ravishing in the Andante which is by far the longest movement of the work, and, ably supported by Tadashi Imai on the piano, Magyar brings energy and wit to the Furiant and Coda which close off the work in rousing fashion.

Delius’ short Viola Sonata is an arrangement by Lionel Tertis of the composer’s Third Violin Sonata written in the last years of his life at Grez sur Long. It has a wistful and melancholy atmosphere, particularly in the first movement marked Slow, which rather suits the viola’s perhaps more expressionistic sound. Again Magyar is an ideal exponent with some quite lovely playing in the Lento-con moto final movement.

The final work is Frank Bridge’s collection of pieces for viola and piano. These are short tone pictures which afford Magyar and Imai the opportunity to let off some virtuosic steam, and the result is extremely enjoyable.

As usual, Naxos provides extensive notes and the recording is excellent, although a slight brightness to the viola can be detected in some places. Otherwise a hugely commendable disc and certainly a calling card for Eniko Magyar as one to watch.



Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, May 2010

An impressive calling-card for a stylish young viola player

Fashioned for the great Lionel Tertis, Bliss’s imposing Viola Sonata of 1933 has been enjoying a renaissance on disc: this fine new recording by Hungarian viola player Eniko Magyar (a product of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied with Martin Outram) is the fifth to have come my way in as many years. Confidently partnered by Tadashi Imai, Magyar gives a most compelling interpretation which, in its rewarding marriage of youthful vigour and songful grace…Tertis’s own arrangement of Delius’s Third Violin Sonata was published in 1932, the virtuoso having sought and received approval on a visit to the previous year. It’s an effective and accomplished piece of work, and these sensitive artists are fully attuned to the music’s intensely lyrical flow and inimitably Delian sunset glow (the valedictory finale being especially moving). The sequence of seven pieces by Frank Bridge (an admirable viola player in his own right) date from between 1901 and 1908. The winsome Berceuse, Serenade and Norse Legend were later orchestrated; just two (Pensiero and Allegro appassionato) were originally conceived for viola and piano. Once again, Magyar and Imai are utterly convincing protagonists of all this attractive material.

Throw in sound that is undistractingly truthful, Lewis Foreman’s helpfully detailed notes and Naxos’s enticing price-tag, and it is certainly adds up to a healthy recommendation.



Steven E. Ritter
Fanfare, May 2010

This Naxos release has one name that serves as a connecting thread through all of these pieces—Lionel Tertis. Tertis (1876–1975) was one of the first violists to achieve international fame, and his name is legendary among string players. Arthur Bliss, who achieved much success in England after returning post-WWII, wrote and dedicated his viola sonata to Tertis, who served as the editor for the composition. The work is unsettled and slightly brooding in the first movement, albeit with a lovely middle movement and reckless one-legged jig in 6/16 time in the finale. Though it is a repertory item, I count only four recordings currently in the catalog, including one already out on Naxos as well, that of Martin Outram (Viola) and Peter Donohoe (piano), coupled with the oboe quintet and piano quartet by the same composer. But Eniko Magyar, a young Hungarian violist with some impressive credentials, sets the bar almost impossibly—and unfairly—high with this lustrous reading.

Delius dictated much of his last music to Eric Fenby—this third violin sonata is one of those pieces. However, Tertis made his own arrangement not long after and actually played it for the composer in 1932. The work is typical of this composer, uncertain, hesitant in places, followed by gloriously assured writing that belies any of the questions we might have had. Delius, aside from some of his more direct melodies, sometimes takes time to unfold his arguments, but they are always cushioned in glorious sonorities, and this sonata is no exception. I always question these sorts of transcriptions, especially those that go between violin and viola, but this one is sensational.

Finally, Frank Bridge. What we have here is a collection of miscellaneous pieces written for violin generally and transcribed for viola. Only two, Pensiero and Allegro appassionato were written for viola. But they are, in a word, gems. Melodically they are as entrancing as anything you are likely to hear from any composer—catchy, beautiful, and memorable. Though they don’t really make any sense in the order they are presented, it doesn’t matter, as you look forward to the next before the current one ends. Part of this is no doubt due to the fabulous playing of Magyar, an up-and-coming talent if ever there was one, whose technique is matched only by her formidable sense of line and structure—not to mention one of the fattest and chocolaty viola sounds I have ever heard, rich in overtones and gorgeously even across the entire spectrum. This is a Want List candidate for sure.



Geoff Adams
Otago Daily Times, April 2010

The viola, with its plangent tone, subtle sonority and lyrical qualities, is often overshadowed by the violin, its more brilliant-sounding sibling. This debut disc by a young Hungarian pays tribute to the celebrated violist Lionel Tertis, who made an effective arrangement of Delius’ Violin Sonata No.3. Magyar plays it with soaring lines and rich tones. But the standout work and performance here is the Viola Sonata written by another British composer, Sir Arthur Bliss, who dedicated it to Tertis. It has four movements, the third with a furiant 6/16 time signature; Magyar copes very well, impressing throughout. Frank Bridge, who also played viola, wrote the seven brief miniatures, arrangements of his violin pieces, which occupy the final 25 minutes. Highlight: Bliss Viola Sonata, brooding and vibrant.



Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, March 2010

Eniko Magyar is a young Hungarian violist who studied with Martin Outram at the Royal Academy of Music. She plays a viola by Giovanni Grancino lent to her by the Academy. She produces a strong, clear tone in all registers. This is the first I’ve heard from her, and I look forward to hearing more.

She is very propulsive in I of Arthur Bliss’s stormy Viola Sonata of 1933, the most substantial work in this recital, and sustains the long Andante beautifully. She is particularly effective in the haunting introduction. She does a very fine job of summing up the whole work in the tragic Coda.

The Delius Violin Sonata 3 is heard in the arrangement Lionel Tertis made for viola. It is lovely and mellifluous in Magyar’s hands, and is the ideal counterweight to the dark mood of the Bliss. Magyar concludes her recital with some short character pieces by Frank Bridge. Bridge had a real talent for such music, and she does a very fine job conveying the mood of each piece. She is very good at holding the listener’s attention in the slow, quiet works, which is the mark of a serious talent.




Julian Haylock
Classic FM, February 2010

[Excellent] The viola is an instrument with a mournful soul that only reveals itself to select few. Magyar is clearly one of them, for she plays it not as an alto cello or violin, but as a unique voice enriching the middle register. The point is well made by Delius’s Third Violin Sonata and a handful of miniatures by Bridge, most of which were originally for cello or violin, but in Magyar’s hands sound like viola originals. The Bliss Viola Sonata can feel structurally diffused at times, yet such is Magyar’s identification with the music’s spirit that it feels not a note too long.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, February 2010

This disc has Lionel Tertis stamped all over it. The pioneering violist was the inspirer of Bliss’s hugely impressive sonata. At the private first performance, which he gave, Solomon was his piano partner for whom William Walton turned the pages. Soon after that Rubinstein was sight-reading the piano part for a BBC broadcast with Tertis. The Bliss sonata has had expensive tastes in pianists—not to mention violists.

And now we have Hungarian-born and now London-resident Enikö Magyar to add to the roster. She was a student of, amongst others, Martin Outram with whom she presumably studied the sonata. Perhaps he even introduced her to it. He’s already recorded it for Naxos [8.555931] on an all-Bliss chamber disc, so Naxos is now sporting two competing versions, though the element of ‘competition’ is lessened by the repertoire involved in each disc.

In any case there are strong points of divergence in their performances. She very properly has her own ideas, and these are not simply to do with tempo. On that point she is certainly slower in the first two movements than Outram, but also tends to sculpt phrases rather more dramatically and succulently. She has splendid tonal depth and this gives her sense of projection an almost theatrical dimension. She plays moreover with flexible metre, but stresses the moderato element of the first movement in particular, where Outram moves things on that bit more tersely. It’s this degree of passionate commitment that I admire so much in her playing. The slow movement’s opening and closing pizzicato are draped in melancholia, for instance, and paragraph points are always etched and alive. The vigorous figuration of the scherzo was ideally suited to Tertis’s bold, masculine and dashing virtuosity and she launches its dynamism with superb aplomb. So too the finale, ripely done, and which ends sonorously and decisively. This is an excellent performance on its own terms. Collectors will have their old-timers on the shelves: Forbes and Foggin (a big favourite of mine, recorded on three Decca 78s), Downes and Cassini (Revolution), Vardi and Sturrock (he made another recording with Weinstock too), Jones and Hampton [LIR011], Lederer and Murray—as well as Outram and James Rolton. No Tertis though, which is a great loss. My hunch is that he would have taken it far faster even than Outram. Bliss always admired Tertis’s sense of ‘flow’ and this was a characteristic of his playing.

But we have no Tertis recording, and nor do we of his own arrangement of Delius’s Third Violin Sonata. This followed a few years after his similar work with Elgar’s Cello Concerto. It works perfectly well and is susceptible to breadth of phrasing and the rich exploration of the viola’s more melancholic tonal qualities. Enikö Magyar and Tadashi Imai—whose success in this disc, and in particular his splendid accomplishment in the taxing Bliss sonata—play the Delius in the modern manner; quite slowly and with rich cantilena. They bring out its autumnal, resigned qualities all the while imbued with a vibrant sense of its structure. What I miss is the contrast between moods. The central movement could be more capriciously drawn. Here the B section is very serious-minded. It’s of a piece with the stance as a whole but I think it lacks contrast. So too the finale, which most violinists these days don’t take con moto enough. The danger in this sonata is that of a ‘too samey’ tempo.

The disc is fleshed out by Bridge’s lovely morceaux. Only two, surprisingly enough, were written for viola—which was Bridge’s own instrument. He made a number of 78s as a quartet player. The Allegro appassionato and Pensiero are the original viola pieces—the former flowing and almost ecstatic, the latter warmly textured. The Berceuse is a songful envoi. They’re all characterised excellently by this enterprising duo. Though this is not actually a tribute disc to Tertis it can serve as an adjunct to his argumentative but proselytizing genius for his instrument. More germane to this review it announces another highly impressive young violist and duo. Finally the Bliss recording is a strongly recommendable one and the Delius in its viola incarnation is rare.



Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, February 2010

There is something about the viola’s tonal quality that makes it seem quintessentially English; appropriately so, given that it was an Englishman—Lionel Tertis—who almost singlehandedly established the viola as a legitimate solo instrument in the early 20th century. Tertis had connections with most of the music on this outstanding debut CD by the London-based Hungarian violist Eniko Magyar.

The Bliss Sonata is the most challenging of the works, with a turbulent, restless and dissonant start and a passionate third movement. It was written for, and dedicated to, Tertis, who gave the first performance in 1933.

A year earlier, Tertis had transcribed Delius’s Third Violin Sonata and had played it for the ailing composer at the latter’s home in Grez-sur-Loing. Written in 1930, it is Delius at his distinctively lyrical best. The seven attractive miniatures by Frank Bridge date from 1901 to 1908, when Bridge was in his 20s. Most were originally written for violin or cello; only two—Pensiero and Allegro appassionato—were written specifically for the viola, Bridge’s own instrument, and were published as the first titles in the Lionel Tertis Viola Library in 1908.

Magyar plays her c.1700 Grancino viola (on loan from the Royal Academy) with warmth, sensitivity, and a superb technique, and is ably and sympathetically supported by pianist Tadashi Imai. The recording quality and booklet notes are both excellent.



Classic FM, February 2010

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Carlos Maria Solare
The Strad, February 2010

My initial amazement that a violist with such an echt-Hungarian name should be playing this arch-English repertoire, and in such an idiomatic and convincing way to boot, vanished after reading her biography: upon graduating in her native Budapest, Eniko Magyar went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London, an institution that has kept the legacy of Lionel Tertis, the inspiration behind most of the music included here, very much alive over the past century.

Playing on a Grancino viola (c.1700) on loan from the RAM, Magyar has at her command a wonderfully wide palette of colours (the pianissimo beginning of the Bliss Sonata’s second movement is breathtaking) and beautifully clear articulation (ditto the same piece’s ‘Furiant’). She is also perfectly at home in the ‘eternal snow’ regions high up on the A string frequently required both in the Bliss and in Tertis’s arrangement of Delius’s Third Violin Sonata (a first recording, as far as I’m aware).

This truthfully recorded CD is rounded off with seven pieces by Frank Bridge, who of course was himself a violist. However, only ‘Pensiero’ and ‘Allegro appassionato’ are original pieces, the rest having been (anonymously but idiomatically) transcribed from violin and cello originals. Magyar and Tadashi Imai enter their wistful sound world with sure instinct.



Jay Harvey
The Indianapolis Star, January 2010

Viola in English gardens

Let’s put on our appropriate serious faces and stop beating the dead horse of viola jokes. Not too serious, but just serious enough to realize there is some good viola music out there that demands the best musicianship. Its crucial role in the string choir notwithstanding, the viola can come across just splendidly on its own.

Listen to “The English Viola” (Naxos) and glory in the sound of Eniko Magyar, with the sympathetic partnership of pianist Tadashi Imai, piano. A varied set of miniatures by Frank Bridge, though many of them first saw the light of day as violin pieces, are particularly charming and idiomatic. Somewhat more challenging is the inward-looking Violin Sonata No. 3 (as transcribed for viola by Lionel Tertis) of Frederick Delius.

The most rewarding selection is Arthur Bliss’ Viola Sonata, a 1933 work that brings out Magyar’s best playing. She inflects her phrases thoughtfully, varying her tone when useful to make different expressive points. She floats aloft great arcing lines in the romantic second movement and sinks her teeth into the boisterous “Furiant” third movement. The work’s unusual “Coda” movement presents a solemn summing up, moving to free fantasy by the end.

The Magyar-Imai partnership never fails to enchant in this vividly recorded music.



Paul Freeman
San Jose Mercury News, January 2010

This young Hungarian violist, now living in London, delivers elegant, nuanced, heartfelt performances. Her debut CD, “English Viola,” will please not only classical aficionados, but anyone willing to open themselves up to these interpretations of early 20th century British composers. Though some of these selections were originally written for violin or cello, Magyar gives them a rich, new identity via her viola. Her flowing sound is as haunting as it is heavenly.



Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, January 2010

The viola always spoke to English composers of the late romantic period, it must have been something to do with the slightly despairing English soul, as well as the repressed emotion in the fabric of our makeup. This is particularly true of Delius’s 3rd Violin Sonata in this gorgeous version for viola by Lionel Tertis; we already know of Tertis’s prowess as an arranger from his version of the Elgar Cello Concerto (Conifer CDCF 171). The version of Delius’s Sonata is very appealing indeed. There seems to be an extra strain of melancholy in this version, and the third movement, in particular, has a lovely stroll in the country feel to it. The whole recordings is suffused in a delicate sunset glow; Delius would have been most pleased with this version. Magyar and Imai play this quintessentially English work to the manner born, it is a fine interpretation and performance.

The seven Frank Bridge miniatures are fascinating for they are seldom heard, despite being, in the main, light in texture and pleasing in language. Five of the pieces are arrangements of works for, mainly, violin and piano. Bridge was a violist so you can rest assured that these pieces are perfectly laid out for the instrument. Allegro appassionato and Pensiero are the original viola compositions; the former is wild and passionate and the latter quiet and thoughtful. Serenade is full of decoration, and a good tune, while Souvenir is good all round; a strong tune, pleasantly harmonized, makes its way through this piece. Gondoliera starts as a study in strange birdsong but soon alights on a sweeping tune, perfect for any type of light music—and this tune is a real winner. Norse Legend is another rocking piece, not a lullaby but some kind of boat song, perhaps this is the long lost song of the maidens left behind when their men go off raping and pillaging, and Berceuse is a marvelous “they all lived happily ever after” close.

The recital starts with Arthur Bliss’s Viola Sonata. This is a large scale work, full of passion and bravura. I find many of Bliss’s orchestral works to be overwritten, and he seems never to know when to stop, but with chamber music he always understands what he is doing, where he is going and what will make the composition interesting to the listener. This Sonata is certainly well written and has a fine sense of purpose. Its language is cosmopolitan, but none the worse for that, for although firmly rooted in central Europe, Bliss is still an English composer. Perhaps Magyar’s Hungarian soul has had something to do with the intense longing this performance seems to have. The performances are excellent, really getting to the heart of this music, which is superb. The sound is very good and the notes helpful. This is a must for all lovers of English music, and anyone purely interested in music for the viola. I loved it.



Infodad.com, January 2010

…And speaking of languishing: the viola did so for centuries, suffering neglect as the smaller violin dominated both solo and orchestral playing. To a great extent, it was in Imperial Britain that the viola’s neglect began to be reversed, in large part with Walton’s Viola Concerto but in even larger part because of the renowned and long-lived violist, Lionel Tertis (1876–1975). It was for Tertis that Walton wrote his concerto in 1929—and Tertis also had a huge influence on other British composers, even making a viola arrangement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto of which the composer approved. Sir Arthur Bliss wrote his Viola Sonata for Tertis in 1933 and dedicated it to Tertis “in admiration.” It is in fact an admirable work, moving from lyricism to solemnity to a scherzo-finale in the decidedly odd (and rather engaging) time signature of 6/16; and it is very well played in the new recording by the distinctly international pair of Enikö Magyar and Tadashi Imai. They also do a fine job with Tertis’ 1932 arrangement of Frederick Delius’ Violin Sonata No. 3, which Tertis played for the blind and nearly paralyzed composer (who died in 1934). The Delius work’s simplicity and lovely flow fit the viola quite well. And then, for an encore—or rather a series of them —Magyar and Imai offer seven short works by Frank Bridge, who was a violist but generally wrote brief pieces for violin or cello (which he later arranged for viola). The selections here, only two of which started out as viola pieces, date from 1901–8 and are quite varied in mood, with Magyar’s lithe and lovely playing giving each its due. Interestingly, there is a slight irony to Magyar’s considerable success with the music on this CD. She is Hungarian—indeed, the name “Magyar” means “Hungary”—and as it happens, the one 20thcentury viola concerto that stands as an equal to Walton’s was written by one of Hungary’s greatest composers, Béla Bartók.




John Tharauds
Toronto Star, December 2009

The violin’s neglected, deeper-voiced cousin gets its full due from London-based Hungarian Enikö Magyar and her piano accompanist Tadashi Imai in early-20th-century pieces from England that deserve to be heard far more often. The disc opens with the most Modern-sounding piece, the 1933 Violin Sonata by Arthur Bliss (1891-1975). It is followed by an arrangement for viola, by Lionel Tertis, of the sweet, 1930 Violin Sonata No. 3 by Frederick Delius (1862-1934). The prettiest music of all on the disc comes from seven pieces for viola and piano by Benjamin Britten’s composition teacher, Frank Bridge (1879-1941). Magyar’s technique has lyrical grace that makes magic out of this diverse program. Imai is her ideal counterpart on the piano.



Margarita Zelenaia
Amazon.com, December 2009

Listening to the debut CD of the young Hungarian violist Eniko Magyar, it was obvious for me, that Ms. Magyar has a lot to say as a performer. Her viola speaks in monologues and dialogues; it cries and whispers, sings a soft lullaby and goes through some really dramatic questions. Her deep understanding of the two sonatas she had chosen to record (Sir Arthur Bliss' Viola Sonata and Frederick Delius' Third Violin sonata), brought to life the interpretations, that live, emotional, full of fresh ideas and thorough thoughts. The miniatures of Frank Bridge were played charmingly, with such warm, genuine feelings. Overall, the romantic expression of the works on this CD was delivered with rich and warm, bright and tender, other words, with an extremely colorful tone. It is certainly a very well-balanced ensemble of viola and piano.

I can predict an amazingly successful career for Eniko Magyar, whose exceptional gifts deserve the best realization.

This is definitely a CD that is worthwhile to ad to your library!




LarryB
Amazon.com, December 2009

A Brilliant Collection of Works for Viola

This has been a most welcomed addition to my library. Works for viola are, of course, less commonly heard by the general listener, although specialists will find a lot to choose from. These selections by British composers are by no means esoteric. They provide an excellent introduction to viola for the generalist and a valuable item for the specialist as well. Eniko Magyar seems to be the rising star of violists, or perhaps she has already risen with this disc. The Grancino sounds spectacular here and the recording quality by Naxos is as usual superb. Recommended without qualifications and sure to please!



John Terauds
Toronto Star, December 2009

The violin’s neglected, deeper-voiced cousin gets its full due from London-based Hungarian Enikö Magyar and her piano accompanist Tadashi Imai in early-20th-century pieces from England that deserve to be heard far more often. The disc opens with the most Modern-sounding piece, the 1933 Viola Sonata by Arthur Bliss (1891–1975). It is followed by an arrangement for viola, by Lionel Tertis, of the sweet, 1930 Violin Sonata No. 3 by Frederick Delius (1862–1934). The prettiest music of all on the disc comes from seven pieces for viola and piano by Benjamin Britten’s composition teacher, Frank Bridge (1879–1941). Magyar’s technique has lyrical grace that makes magic out of this diverse program. Imai is her ideal counterpart on the piano.



Michael Barone
Minnesota Public Radio, November 2009

Is the viola making a comeback? After Aaron David Carpenter last week, here’s another stylish soloist who, with her pianist (both fresh from the Royal Academy of Music) is destined for big things by the evidence here. The several Bridge miniatures are charming, while sonatas by Bax and Delius provide real depth and substance. Beautifully balanced sound, too.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2009

Hungarian by birth, British by adoption, Eniko Magyar belongs to a recently emerging group who are taking the art of the viola to a new level of excellence. Often the butt of musical humour, the viola as a solo instrument has often tempted great composers in the past to write for the virtuosos of the day, though the available repertoire is still limited. That British composers were tempted to its very special qualities largely stems from the great exponent, Lionel Tertis,  and among those famous names was Arthur Bliss, who wrote this admirable sonata for him. Rhapsodic in nature, and using the full scope of the instrument, Magyar’s tight vibrato draws such gorgeous sounds from her Giovanni Grancino in the warm and elegiac slow movement. Then she unleashes a stunning display of agility in the following Furiant and in the concluding Andante maestoso. The Delius transcription was authorised by the composer who was given a private performance of the solo by Tertis before publication. It fits well onto the viola fingerboard, though it does becomes a very different work in its overall sound. Starting out from a very different position, Frank Bridge was a viola player by trade, though to ensure the sale of his sheet music he wrote either for violin or cello, only later arranging some of his salon pieces for viola. Of the seven tracks here recorded only two are original viola scores. They vary in content from the dramatic Norse Legend to the light music of Gondoliera, and, while not revelatory works, they are all very agreeable. Exemplary intonation, clean articulation and a ready kinship with the British music idiom, Magyar is admirably accompanied by multi-award winning concert Japanese concert pianist, Tadashi Imai.



Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, November 2009

This is the debut CD of the young Hungarian viola player Eniko Magyar. She could have opted for easier material to test the waters of the recording world, but instead chose to dive right into the deep end of the pool by recording the demanding Viola Sonata by Sir Arthur Bliss. The opening movement immediately puts demands on the soloist with its long sweeping phrases and nervous energy. Twists and turns abound throughout as the harmonic development takes many different paths before settling down at the end. All this boundless energy is very well put across by Eniko Magyar. In the slower second movement, she brings out the viola’s rich and deep-toned qualities as well as its singing beauty in the highest registers. The following movement (Furiant: Molto Allegro) with its rapid fire energy and odd 6/16 time signature, would put any musician to the test, but Eniko just seems to thrill in the laborious demands, both technical and emotional, that the music commands. The Sonata ends with a dark and brooding Andante in which the soloist brings out the beautiful plaintive nature of the viola. One of Eniko Magyar’s teachers was Martin Outram who has also recorded this work, which probably explains the ease with which she has mastered such a thorny and demanding piece of music.

The viola arrangement of the Frederick Delius Violin Sonata No. 3 follows and instantly the mood of the music becomes more lyrical, more relaxed and melodic. Surprising when you consider the conditions under which this work was composed. This piece was composed 4 years before Delius died, and was actually dictated for his secretary to annotate and write down, because by then the effects of syphilis had reached the point where he was paralysed and blind. But yet the music contains the typical pastoral beauty that comes naturally to Delius. Eniko Magyar demonstrates the music’s flowing nature very well, with soaring lines and a glowing tone throughout.

The remaining six pieces on the disc are all short miniature pieces by Frank Bridge, and are far removed from the sound world of Arthur Bliss. These could all be used as ‘encore’ pieces following a recital, simply because of their pleasant, lyrical and melodic nature. They should not be considered ‘light’ fare though, as some of them, like Souvenir and Pensiero are perfectly matched to the viola’s beauty by their melancholic style. All of these miniatures are played with sensitivity and passion by Eniko Magyar, and given the same importance as the more demanding works.

The deep and resonant sound of the viola is well captured and reproduced in this Naxos recording. Tadashi Imai offers strong support on the piano throughout every piece, and the booklet notes are very informative on the composers as well as the performers involved. All in all a captivating foray into the sound world of the viola, as seen through the eyes of English composers who have found a master exponent of their music in Eniko Magyar.






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