About this Recording
8.572078 - HUBAY, J.: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Scenes de la Csarda Nos. 3 and 4 (Hanslip, Bournemouth Symphony, Mogrelia)

Jenő Hubay (1858–1937)
Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 • Scènes de la Csárda Nos. 3 and 4


Jenő Hubay (born Eugen Huber) was born in the Hungarian city of Pest (now Budapest) on 15 September 1858. Though of German extraction, he changed his name from the original Huber to the more Hungarian-sounding Hubay when he was 21 years old. He first studied the violin with his father Karl (Károly) Huber (1828–1885), who served as violin professor at the national conservatory and conductor of the Hungarian National Theatre. In 1872 he made his professional début as violin soloist in a Viotti concerto, and the following year travelled to Berlin to begin his studies with Joseph Joachim at the Hochschule für Musik. Hubay studied with Joachim (1831–1907), one of the foremost violinists of the time, for three years before returning to Hungary. He became acquainted with Franz Liszt (1811–1886) and appeared in concert with him, performing, among other works, Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Following Liszt’s advice, he travelled to Paris in 1878 and made the city his base of operations as a touring virtuoso. He won considerable success in tours of France, England, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Hungary. While in Paris he developed a deep friendship with Henri Vieuxtemps (1820–1881), another outstanding nineteenth-century violin virtuoso. Vieuxtemps had been a violin professor at the Brussels Conservatoire, but had had to relinquish his position in the mid-1870s after a stroke. He looked to the younger man to continue his legacy and made Hubay his executor, as well as entrusting him with the orchestration of his last violin concerto. Vieuxtemps also recommended Hubay for the post of violin professor at the Brussels Conservatoire, a position he took up in 1882. After four and a half years in Brussels he returned to Hungary as violin professor at the Budapest Academy of Music; he also taught at the Budapest Conservatoire. Under Hubay’s direction, the Academy became one of the leading centres of violin instruction in the world and boasted such students as Eugene Ormandy and Joseph Szigeti. Carl Flesch (1873–1944), the great Hungarian violinist and teacher, described the Hungarian violin school style as consisting of “an excellently developed left hand, a natural feeling for tonal beauty and great ardour behind it all…” Besides his teaching duties, for many years Hubay remained an active virtuoso and in 1886 he founded the Hubay Quartet. He married into the aristocracy in 1894 (Countess Róza Cebrian) and was awarded a title himself in 1907. By 1898 Hubay had scaled back public performance in favour of teaching and composition. A prolific composer, he composed four violin concertos, a violin sonata, several symphonies (including the 1925 Dante Symphony), operas (perhaps best known is The Violinmaker of Cremona, 1892), songs, and numerous short violin works (several hundred all told), many in the Hungarian style. Hungary experienced a brief communist takeover in the chaos following the First World War and in the spring of 1919 Hubay fled to Switzerland with his family. When the communist régime collapsed in the autumn of the same year Hubay returned to Hungary and was appointed Director of the Budapest Academy. Now the “grand old man” of Hungarian music, he led the Academy until 1934, extending his Hungarian violin school influence into the twentieth century. Hubay died in Budapest on 12 March 1937.

Hubay’s music is an amalgam of various nineteenth-century tendencies, the full flower of late romanticism; the virtuoso tradition as represented by Liszt, Vieuxtemps, and Joachim (all of whom he knew personally); the violin tradition of the French and Belgian schools; and a new interest in nationalism. Hubay’s music is romantic from beginning to end, from his début in a Viotti concerto (the famous A minor, which dates from the beginning of the romantic period) to his Sonate romantique, to his violin concertos, to his wonderful Hungarian pieces – all are part and parcel of the romantic era of classical music. Hubay considered himself a bearer of a great tradition handed down by Vieuxtemps, Liszt, and other nineteenth-century master musicians, and though he appreciated the talent of Dohnányi (with whom he came into conflict at the Academy) and other twentieth-century musicians, he was sometimes at odds with the music of younger composers such as Bartók and Kodály and did not think the “new” music sufficiently respected the traditions of the past. Hubay’s nationalism is aptly demonstrated by his early alteration of his name, but perhaps even more so by the Hungarian flavour of much of his music, represented here by two Scènes de la Csárda. Though he died in 1937, Hubay’s aesthetic was rooted in the romanticism of the mid- and late nineteenth century. Like Rachmaninov and other composers who formed their artistic sensibility in the late nineteenth century, Hubay should be considered a nineteenth-century composer, and as a violinist he stands in the great tradition of the French and Belgian violin schools and as the principal founder of the Hungarian violin school.

The 1884 Concerto dramatique, Op. 21, was Hubay’s first violin concerto and was dedicated to Joseph Joachim. Carl Flesch thought that Hubay’s concertos “deliberately remained faithful to Vieuxtemps’ harmony and melodic structure” and therefore harkened back to a slightly earlier phase of romanticism. The concerto’s opening movement, Allegro appassionato, begins vigorously with a short orchestral introduction. The violin enters high on the E string with a short cadenza-like passage leading to a maestoso theme. In the exposition vigorous passage-work alternates with dolce or dolcissimo sections. The development section features triplets in the violin, flutes and oboes ascending chromatically over the soloist’s combined tremolo and double-stopping, and dramatic sforzando alternating with artificial harmonics. Variants of the dolce material reappear before a short cadenza leading to an appassionato section and a final animato sprint to the final bars. The second movement, Adagio ma non tanto, is a gorgeous movement making full use of the violin’s singing qualities, though the middle section requires double-stopping and harmonics. The finale, Allegro con brio, brings the concerto to an energetic close.

Hubay’s Scènes de la Csárda are probably his most famous works and show the Hungarian and folk element of his artistry to full effect. The csárdás (derived from the old Hungarian csárda, a country inn) is a Hungarian folk-dance that attracted many composers with its gypsy sensibility, and certainly no one used the gypsy-like form more effectively than Hubay. A csárdás begins slowly (lassú) and ends quickly (friss) and may undergo several tempo changes in between. The flavour is definitely gypsy, with an abundance of folk or folk-like tunes. Scènes de la Csárda, No. 3, Op. 18, is subtitled Maro vize folyik csendesen (“The Maros is flowing peacefully”) and was written about 1882–1883. The broad opening of the slow section, which features harp, slowly winds down to a beautiful lament; a dramatic bridge section leads to the quick section. Scènes de la Csárda No. 4, Op. 32, (Hejri Kati or “Hey Katie” or “Beautiful Katie”) is possibly Hubay’s most famous work and was written about 1882–1886. The opening Lento ma non troppo is followed by an Allegro moderato before the return of the slow opening, and then a sustained trill leads to a marvellously energetic Presto section.

Hubay’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 90, was composed around 1900 and published in 1904. The first movement, Allegro con fuoco, opens with a march-like theme in the orchestra which is taken up by the soloist; a quiet dolce theme follows. The soloist begins the development section with an appassionato section on the G string. These thematic materials are expertly developed and come to a rousing climax in the last bars of the movement. The lovely middle movement, Larghetto, is a sustained exercise in lyricism; the central Più mosso quasi Allegretto builds to a fortissimo climax before the return of the slightly altered larghetto material. Another climax is reached before the movement winds down to a quiet close. The sprightly finale, Allegro non troppo, is in rondo form and boasts a highly articulated theme with triplets and makes a joyous conclusion to the concerto.

Bruce R. Schueneman

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