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COMPOSERS: Petrovics
LABELS: Budapest Music Center
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; Rhapsodies for solo violin & solo cello
PERFORMER: Antál Szalai (violin), László Mez? (cello); Bartók Quartet
In post-war Hungarian music, all paths seem to lead back to Bartók. The influence was liberating for Ligeti, but it seems to have overpowered Emil Petrovics, a Hungarian composer who’s all but unknown outside his native country. The earliest piece on this CD dates from 1959, the latest – the Second Rhapsody for Cello – dates from the mid-Eighties, but the style hardly changes. Petrovics’s music is like Bartók’s with all the danger taken out. You hear whole phrases lifted bodily from Bartók’s Third Quartet or Second Violin Concerto, but they’re placed in the context of a repeating phrase, or a doggedly regular fugue, which saps all their energy. Having said that, there are some striking inventions here and there. Petrovics’s slow movements are a good deal more effective at generating intensity than his fast ones, and though his style didn’t develop, the pieces do get better. The performances are beautifully recorded, and if they seem careful rather than fiery, that’s probably Petrovics’s fault as much as the Hungarian Quartet’s. Much the best thing on the disc is Antál Szalai’s superb performance of the First Rhapsody for violin, the one piece where Petrovics transcends his limitations. Ivan Hewett