About this Recording

Hungarian Festival

Zoltán Kodály (1882 - 1967)
Háry János Suite
1. The Fairy Tale Begins
2. Viennese Musical Clock
3. Song
4. The Battle and Defeat of Napoleon
5. Intermezzo
6. Entrance of the Emperor and His Court

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886) orch. Franz Doppler
Hungarian Rhapsody No.1 in F Minor (originally No.14)
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in D Minor (originally No.12)
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D Major (originally No.9)

Jenö Hubay (1858 - 1937)
Hejre Kati, Scene from the Czárda, Opus 32 No.4

Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869)
Hungarian March (Rákóczy March)

Zoltán Kodály shared with Bela Bartók the task of collecting and codifying the folk-music of Hungary and adjoining regions once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and of creating from this a new national tradition, distinct from the purely Austrian and German schools of composition represented by some of the more conservative musicians in Budapest, and distinct, too, from the spurious so-called gypsy tradition that had found such favour in the nineteenth century.

The opera Háry János, more of a popular tale than a true opera, was first performed in the Hungarian capital in 1926. It centres on the exploits, largely imaginary, of the soldier Hary János, an inveterate liar, who sits in the tavern, telling anyone who will listen to him of his famous adventures, escapades that include the personal defeat of the French Emperor Napoleon, a love affair with the Empress Marie-Louise, the shifting of the frontier single-handed, and, of course, the receipt of lavish honours bestowed upon him by a grateful Emperor.

The music, like the story, is essentially Hungarian. Its introduction, the opening of the Fairy-Tale, suggests that w hat will follow has all the exaggeration of a dream. In the Suite taken from the opera the excerpts are not kept in their original order, but the Prelude is followed by the famous musical clock of Vienna, with its model soldiers that mark the hour.

The Song that forms the third movement of the Suite is the love-duet between Hary János and his first love, Orzse, to whom he finally returns, a folk-song played first by the solo viola and then transformed by the orchestra. It is followed by the mock-epic in which Napoleon and the Marseillaise are put to flight, the movement ending in a funeral march, dignified by a melancholy saxophone.

The Intermezzo is in the form of a Hungarian verbunkos, a recruiting dance, a musical means of augmenting the imperial forces, at a time when other countries used drink and the press-gang. It leads to the last movement of the Suite, the Entrance of the Emperor and His Court, the climax of the hero's career, in his own imagination. A brisk march introduces the Royal Guard and the Emperor himself, to a highly coloured orchestral accompaniment.

The great piano virtuoso Franz Liszt was born in 1811, the son of a steward employed by the Esterhazy family, in whose service Haydn had spent most of his career. His first public concert, as a boy, in Pozsony (Bratislava), aroused sufficient interest among the nobility for him to be sent to Vienna, where he had lessons from Czerny and was, allegedly, kissed by Beethoven, who listened to his playing, in spite of the fact that he was almost stone deaf. The family moved soon after this to Paris, where Liszt passed his adolescence, while undertaking a series of concert tours. His career as a virtuoso brought him enormous fame and popularity, while his association with the Countess Marie d'Agoult, a married woman who bore him three children, aroused sufficient scandal to induce him to leave Paris. In 1848, having already parted company with the Countess, he moved to Weimar as director of music and was joined there by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, the estranged wife of a Russian nobleman, from whom she was to seek a divorce.

In Weimar Liszt turned his attention to composition, and in particular to the creation of a new form, the symphonic poem. The later part of his life was divided between Rome, where, when marriage with Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein was forbidden by the Vatican, he took minor orders and interested himself in the music of the Church, Weimar. where he held court as an authority on the new music and on the art of piano-playing, and Hungary, where he was regarded as a national hero. He died in 1886 during the course of a visit to Bayreuth, where his daughter Cosima had married the composer Richard Wagner.

Later musicians, notably Bartók and Kodály, have had occasion to point out the confusion in the minds of Liszt and his contemporaries on the matter of gypsy music. For Liszt the gypsy represented freedom from the constraints of society, echoed in the passionate intensity of their music. Bartók, who had undertaken a careful study of Hungarian folk-music, was to point out that the music played by gypsy bands was in general composed by Hungarian gentlemen and was in fact popular art-music rather than primitive folk-music, however abandoned the style of performance.

Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, whatever their provenance, captured the interest of Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century. The very title Rhapsody was something new, and suggested the finer flights of imagination, untrammelled by the restrictions of the sonata. The fourteenth Rhapsody, in the original published collection for piano, is in the manner of a funeral march, while the ninth of the fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies, Carnival in Pest, is a work of overt nationalism, and appeared in various arrangements by the composer. The second has always been one of the most popular of the set. A group of six of the Rhapsodies were orchestrated by Liszt with the help of the flautist and conductor Franz Doppler, one of the founders of the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1853, who visited Liszt in Weimar in the following year.

Jenö Hubay, otherwise known as Eugen Huber, was born in Budapest in 1858, the son of the professor of violin at the Budapest Conservatory that Liszt had established, who was also Kapellmeister of the Hungarian National Opera. Hubay studied the violin with Joachim in Berlin, and made his early career in Paris and Brussels, before returning to Hungary in 1886 to succeed his father at the Conservatory, where he taught Jelly d'Aranyi and Joseph Szigeti, among other distinguished pupils. As a composer he turned his attention to various genres, including opera, ballet and the symphony, but will be popularly remembered both as a great violinist and as a composer of smaller pieces for the violin, of which the Hungarian Hejre Kati is a well known example.

Hector Berlioz did some violence to the geography of Goethe's great drama Faust in order to introduce the famous Rákóczy March, which he had arranged and used for a successful concert in the capital Pest, into his Damnation of Faust. The march itself, by an anonymous Hungarian composer, celebrates the Hungarian patriot Count Rákóczy, who led a rising against Austrian rule in the early eighteenth century.

The Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra
The Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1923 under the name of the Budapest Municipal Orchestra. After the grave losses sustained during the Second World War, the orchestra was reorganized by Ferenc Fricsay and László Somogyi. In 1949 it adopted the name of Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra and since 1952 has been headed by general music director János Ferencsik. In appreciation of its paramount role in fostering symphonic music in Hungary, the orchestra was awarded the highest state prize in 1955.

Over the past three decades a host of internationally famed artists have appeared in guest performances with the orchestra. The list of world-renowned guest conductors includes, among others, Abbado, Abendroth, Ansermet, van Beinum, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Casals, Dervaux, Dorati, Gui, Giulini, Kleiber, Kondrashin, Maazel, Mehta, Oistrakh, Richter, Rossi, and Sanzogno. Special mention must be made of Otto Klemperer, under whose baton the orchestra gave 41 concerts. Soloists appearing with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra, include Backhaus, Gielels, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Richter, Rostropovich, Rubinstein and Szeryng.

The high artistic standard of the orchestra has been hailed by audiences and critics both at home and abroad. The orchestra has scored great successes during its extensive tours in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, the German Democratic Republic, the German Federal Republic, Greece, Holland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Singapore, the Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, the U.S.A. and Yugoslavia.

Over one hundred recordings made by the Hungarian Gramophone Company "Hungaroton" testify to the fine qualities of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra.

Matyas Antal
Matyas Antal was born in 1945 into a family of musicians and completed his training at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest as a flautist and a conductor. In 1972, the year after his graduation, he joined the Hungarian State Orchestra as a flautist, but in the last ten years has been principally employed as a conductor, specialising initially in contemporary music. In 1984 he was appointed chorus-master of the Budapest Choir and two years later became associate conductor of the Hungarian State Orchestra. He appears frequently as a conductor in his native country as well as in East and West Germany, Austria and Greece, and has made a number of recordings for Hungaroton.

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