LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Hungarian Children’s World; Studies for Piano, for Development in the Performance of Hungarian Music; Grand Duo; Three Colours of Burning Love; Festival Music; ‘Gran’ Mass; Puszta Life; Hungarian Musical Poem; Mosonyi’s Funeral Procession
PERFORMER: István Kassai, Klára Körmendi (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223557/8/9 DDD
The Hungarian composer Mihály Mosonyi (1815-70) enjoyed neither Liszt’s international reputation nor Ferenc Érkel’s central European one. Nonetheless, he was a celebrity in his own land, and these discs of his piano music reveal his genius for bridging the gap between authentic folk material and the cultivated tradition.
Though the twelve genre miniatures of Hungarian Children’s World were inspired by Schumann’s Kinderszenen, in retrospect they and the Piano Studies for the Performance of Hungarian Music are direct antecedents of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos. Unlike his friend Liszt, whose Gran Mass he transcribed with impressive fidelity for four hands (featured on Vol. 2), Mosonyi did not use Hungarian music as a departure point for virtuoso display or complex thematic development – compare his pieces with the three Liszt works inspired by Mosonyi’s music in Vol. 3: Mosonyi’s work retains an elemental purity that gives modern listeners a sense of how exotic, even disturbing, this nationalist Hungarian idiom must have sounded to 19th-century non-Hungarians. Next to the heady improvisatory quality of such Mosonyi pieces as ‘The Little Gypsy’ from Children’s World, or ‘Lament of the Nightingale for Bény Egressy’ from the Development Studies, or Puszta Life (on the third disc), Brahms’s Hungarian Dances and even Liszt’s Rhapsodies sound over-refined and westernised. Polished, emotive performances and excellent sound contribute to a persuasive survey. Barrymore Laurence Scherer