About this Recording
8.223539 - MOSONYI: Piano Concerto / Symphony No. 1

Mihaly Mosonyi (1815- 1870) Piano Concerto in E Minor Symphony No

Mihály Mosonyi (1815-1870)

Piano Concerto in E Minor

Symphony No. 1 in D Major


Mihály Mosonyi, known tor many years under his original name, Michael Brand, was born in Boldogasszonyfalva, Hungary (now Frauenkirchen, Austria), on 4th September 1815 and died on 31st October 1870 in Pest. He was the third most important Hungarian composer of the nineteenth century. He did not enjoy an international reputation, like Liszt, or a European reputation, like Erkel, nevertheless he was famous enough in his own country. He studied at the Teachers' Training College in Pozsony (the modern Bratislava, capital of Slovakia) and for a time had private lessons from the pianist, composer and conductor Károly Turányi, while making diligent use of the four volumes of Anton Reicha's work on the art of composition, as well as of Hummel's valuable instruction-book for the piano. On the recommendation of Turányi he became music-master to Count Péter Pejachevich and accompanied the Count to the latter's castle in the village of Rétfalu, near the town of Eszék (the modern Croatian Osijek).


From 1835 to 1842 Brand lived at Rétfalu, analysing carefully many important examples of Viennese classicism, mainly the work of Beethoven, as well as of the best early German romantic compositions. The results of these researches were his own compositions from that period. In 1842 he left for the Hungarian capital, where he remained until the end of his life, except for short periods spent in the country and abroad. In these new circumstances it was very important for him to be personally acquainted with as many musicians in the city as possible, and to find enough students. For a long time his principal income came from teaching the piano, although he continued to apply himself diligently to composition.


Essentially Brand's life and activities may be divided into two periods. The first of these lasted until 1858. Until then he retained the name of Michael Brand and composed German romantic music. In 1859 he changed his name to Mihály Mosonyi, after the county of Moson, where he was born, and altered his style, to write Hungarian romantic music. During the first period the best work he wrote was the Piano Concerto in E minor, completed in 1844, but not performed until 1953. His other compositions from this period were, in 1857 , an opera with a German libretto, which remained unperformed, four Masses, between 1840 and 1842, the first performed in 1844, seven sacred choral works, between 1843 and 1856, with an Offertory and Gradual conducted by Liszt in the latter year. Between 1844 and 1857 he wrote four secular choral works, in 1853-54 thirteen songs, with one symphony in 1842-44 and a second in 1856, the first conducted by Schindelmeisser in 1844, the second by Ferenc Erkel in 1856. Other compositions include an Overture, completed in 1842 and conducted by Schindelmeisser in 1843, a string sextet, composed in 1844, six string quartets between 1842 and 1845, a Grand Nocturne in 1845 for piano, violin and cello, in 1841 a Ballade for violin and piano, and between 1855 and 1857 six works for solo piano, with piano transcriptions and orchestrations of works by foreign composers.


In the second period of his creative life, after his change of name and style, Mosonyi wrote two operas with Hungarian libretti, the first, in 1861, Szép Ilonka (Pretty Helen), conducted in the year of its completion by Ferenc Erkel, and the following year Álmos, first performed only in 1934. Other works from this period include a Mass in 1866, several choral works, three cantatas between 1859 and 1870, twelve songs in the decade from 1860, four orchestral compositions, of which the last, Festival Music, was first conducted by Erkel in 1861 and again by Liszt in 1865. 1861 also brought the Románc for violin and piano, a piano transcription of Festival Music, a piano duet Az égő szerelem hármas szine (Three Colours of Burning Love), thirty-two works for solo piano and many transcriptions and orchestrations, among them a piano-duet version of Liszt's Missa solemnis in 1860 and four years later a similar transcription of the nine symphonies of Beethoven.


The present recording includes the Piano Concerto in E minor of 1844, a work never performed in the composer's life-time. The manuscript of the concerto was found in 1950, during a re-arrangement of the music library in Budapest. The first performance was given 109 years after the date of composition, in 1953, with the pianist Károly Váczi and the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Frigyes Sándor. The work follows Viennese classical and Baroque traditions, with romantic turns of melody and harmony. Instrumentation follows the technique of Beethoven, with orchestral parts that make the work approachable by a youth orchestra. The three movements follow each other without a break. The principal theme of the first movement is introduced by the bassoon, taken up by the whole orchestra after answering material from the oboe. As in many Viennese classical concertos, the solo instrument has no rôle in the introduction of the principal themes, the last of which is a familiar horn motif. After a timpani tremolo, the solo piano starts with a short cadenza-like passage, in this respect resembling Liszt's Totentanz. In spite of the very different character of the music, there are structural similarities between the two works, suggesting the possibility that Liszt, who wrote his Totentanz five years later, had seen a copy of Mosonyi's concerto. Sections of the G major second subject, played by the orchestra, are connected by short piano interludes in dialogue. As the rôles of each change, there are colourful variations of the theme in the piano, leading to a second cadenza-like passage, with the same horn motif. This section becomes slower, preparing the way to the following C major Adagio.


The beautiful descending scale melody of the slow movement is heard in a new dialogue that involves the French horn and piano. As in the first movement, this exchange leads to a full orchestral discussion of the material. The material is varied by the piano and oboe in E flat major, shifting suddenly to the minor key. As in the Baroque chaconne, the rhythmic movement grows more elaborate, while the recapitulation brings a new sound with the plucked notes of the strings. The coda offers new material, with an ascending chromatic line contrasting with the thematic descending diatonic scale, suggesting something new, as the music moves forward to the last movement.


The main theme of the E major Allegro is based on an interesting and constantly changing meter. Uneven and even metrical pulses alternate in a kind of asymmetrical rhythm. Sequential elements lead to a second theme, all sections of which start unstressed after a short rest, providing a contrast with the stressed asymmetries of the first theme. Sequential repetitions occur in the second theme, in a manner suggesting Bach, with a longer variation the third time. An important element of the whole concerto is the frequent use of unison in the solo part, making of the piano a single line melody instrument, something unusual in romantic style. The real cadenza of the soloist is introduced by a long timpani tremolo, with the chord preceding the cadenza a full dominant seventh, an unusual feature. The cadenza itself again suggests similarities with Liszt's Totentanz. In both concertos solo orchestral instruments are used in the improvisatory passages for the piano, with the familiar French horn motif in Mosonyi's work providing a linking element. The coda, marked Più allegro, contains a colourful variation of the second theme, leading to the closing orchestral tutti. Immediately before the last chords there appears another Baroque element in the piano melody. The famous chromatic Passacaglia bass is to be heard in the leading voice, through which the music turns for a moment toward the subdominant key, before ascending again to its final E major.


Two years after Brand-Mosonyi's removal to Pest, his Symphony No. 1 in D major was performed with great success. The work shows many of the characteristics of the style of Beethoven. Instrumentation involves double woodwind, four French horns, three trombones, two trumpets, timpani and strings. The use of four horns and trombones shows the romantic enlargement of the orchestra. As in the last movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the three trombones are heard as new instruments, after the earlier movements. In Beethoven this is a very modern and unusual effect, in order to emphasize the change of key from C minor to C major and the change of mood to the heroic after sadness and mourning. In Mosonyi's symphony the orchestra used is of the normal romantic instrumental complement.


Like Beethoven's D major Second Symphony, Mosonyi's symphony is in D major and opens with a slow introduction, but with a Maestoso in D minor. Beethoven uses four running notes to lead to the Allegro con brio, while Mosonyi uses four unstressed running notes at the very beginning of the movement, a thematic feature of what follows that undergoes a rhythmic change at the beginning of the D major Allegro vivace. There are further similarities between the two works, evident in the stressed syncopations in the middle of the exposition. The timpani has an important part to play in many sections of the movement. The exposition itself ends with the classical modulation into A major, returning immediately to D major, followed by the subdominant, G major, a characteristic Baroque sequence of harmonies. A development in the style of Beethoven has the return of the four-note motif as an ostinato, leading to the recapitulation, suggesting similarities with Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Again the harmonies shift towards the subdominant and from G major to E minor. Modulations in the coda, moving to F major, a romantic third relationship with the original key. The final D major cadence is prepared by a new and very characteristic rhythmic pattern, with the bass voice and chords of the orchestra interchanging constantly in different rhythms.


Mosonyi composed the second movement in B fiat major, the other type of third relation with D major. The symmetrical form of this movement is an interesting combination of the classical sonata-form and the rondo, a secondary element re-appearing in a varied form introduced and interrupted by the recurrent principal theme. The beautiful opening melody is entrusted to the clarinet and bassoon in unison, with a gentle bass accompaniment. This is in complete contrast with the first movement. The theme is repeated by the flute and oboe, with the whole string orchestra. The most important rhythmic element in the accompaniment is the introduction of triplets, through which the double presence of even and uneven elements is created. This is a basic feature of Beethoven's Second Symphony. The second formal section, the first episode in rondo form, starts with the full orchestra. In the dotted rhythms and melodic lines of this part can be heard the influence of the verbunkos, the recruiting-dance. After modulations, a Baroque sequence arrives at the key of B flat minor. A clarinet solo leads gradually back to a variation of the initial material. The second episode is similar to the first, with a new key plan, leading sequentially to E flat minor. The connection between B flat and E flat minor is identical with that of exposition and recapitulation in sonata form. The last return of the main theme is introduced by the oboe. Throughout this movement romantic style is suggested by the unusual use of augmented chords and constant changes in degrees of tension.


Since Beethoven the third movement of a symphony had been an energetic scherzo. Mosonyi's Scherzo recalls this model in melody, harmony and orchestration, but differs in structure. Alterations to the traditional ternary form of scherzo and trio involve the extension of the middle section of the scherzo and changes in its tonality .The Trio, on the other hand, uses the same musical elements and motifs throughout. The final return of the Scherzo is like a coda, with the opening material of the movement recapitulated before the final cadence. The D major Scherzo starts with imitation on two levels, the questioning tonic-dominant is answered by dominant-tonic. In the whole of the first section the scherzo rhythm is evident, leading to the key of A major. The extended second section includes an energetic series of modulations, calming in mood and leading to a false recapitulation of the first section, now in F major, the key in a third relationship with the tonic D major. A brief metrical change gives a certain Beethoven-like asymmetry to the passage before the recapitulation. The G major Trio brings the constant pulsation of crotchets (quarter notes), a rhythmic contrast with the main part that moves through all the sections of the orchestra in a texture characterized by the plucked notes of the strings. A D major cadence leads to the return of the opening material in a coda-like recapitulation.


The last movement of the symphony is a cheerful Rondo that shows the influence of Mozart and Beethoven. In structure the movement is again in sonata-rondo form, with one return of the principal theme omitted between the third fugato episode and the re-appearance of the second giving a certain asymmetry. A notable feature of the main rondo theme is the unstressed ending of its closing phrases, making a stressed conclusion important. The closing short coda brings brief elements of the second episode material to provide a brief summary of the whole movement.


Klára Körmendi


The Hungarian pianist Klára Körmendi was born in Budapest and studied under Kornél Zempléni at the Bartók Conservatory, later becoming a student of Péter Solymos at the Liszt Academy, where she received her diploma with distinction in 1967. She enjoyed early success in a number of international competitions, before embarking on a career that has taken her to the major musical centres of Europe, with broadcasts in Vienna, Paris and London, as well as Basle, Cologne, Lausanne and Ljubljana. Klára Körmendi has a wide repertoire, and has always shown particular interest in contemporary repertoire, both Hungarian and foreign. Her recordings for Hungaroton include music by Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, Luciano Berio and Heinz Holliger. For Naxos she has recorded works by Debussy and Ravel and the complete piano music of Erik Satie.


Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)


The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.


For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantóck and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.


Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)


The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenárd was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief, succeeded recently by Robert Stankovsky. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong and Japan. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and Khachaturian as well as several volumes of the label's Johann Strauss Edition. Naxos recordings include symphonies and ballets by Tchaikovsky, and symphonies by Berlioz and Saint-Saëns.


Robert Stankovsky


Robert Stankovsky was born in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in 1964, and after a childhood spent in the study of the piano, recorder, oboe and clarinet, turned his attention, at the age of fourteen, to conducting, graduating in this and in piano at the Bratislava Conservatory with the title of best graduate of the year. Stankovsky is regarded as one of the most talented conductors of the younger generation in the region. For Marco Polo he has recorded symphonies by Rubinstein and Miaskovsky in addition to orchestral works by Dvořák and Smetana.

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