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WORKS: Sette pezzi; Night Music; American Serenade
PERFORMER: Sharon Bezaly (flute); Aalborg SO/Moshe Atzmon
A pupil of Kodály and Leó Weiner in Budapest, Antal Dorati was one of the most composerly of all ‘conductor-composers’, as I came to recognise when I catalogued his music, with his assistance, in the Eighties. After a youthful period in Hungary when he composed much (most of it subsequently lost), a creative blockage persisted until the Fifties, and even when he was composing fluently and regularly again he withdrew several scores. However, enough remains to testify to a first-rate craftsman with a distinctive voice. The two-movement American Serenade for strings (c1941), a tribute to the country in which he chose exile and one of the few products of the long hiatus, uses the tang of negro spirituals to express nostalgia for Hungary, rather as Dvorák did for Bohemia in From the New World.


More striking in their post-Bartókian constructivism, strong rhythms and rich colouring are the Sette Pezzi for large orchestra (1961), derived from what is clearly a highly coloured ballet on the subject of Mary Magdalene, and the Night Music (1968), which is a fine modern flute concerto in all but name and goes so far as to include an ‘insect’ scherzo. These are excellent performances in good sound which make a satisfying addition to the Dorati discography. Perhaps BIS could give us the String Quartet and Octet next, or the Largo concertato for strings, or the oratorio Le chemin? Calum MacDonald