WORKS: Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song, Op.4; The Vinter’s Daughter, Op. 23a; Notturno Ungherese, Op. 28; Cello Concerto, Op. 32
PERFORMER: Jennifer Pike (violin), Paul Watkins (cello); BBC Phil/Rumon Gamba
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10674
The second volume in Chandos’s survey of Miklós Rózsa’s orchestral output gets off to an auspicious start with a beautifully nuanced performance from violinist Jennifer Pike of the Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song. One of the composer’s earliest works, it was written while he was a student in Leipzig at the end of the 1920s. Even at this stage in his career, the building bricks of Rózsa’s style seem to have been fully formed, in particular a keen ear for orchestral sonority and a piquant harmonic idiom that owes much to his compatriot Kodály.
These ingredients are also strongly evident in The Vintner’s Daughter, another resourceful set of variations from the early 1950s, and the more emotionally subdued Notturno Ungherese. Yet the major achievement undoubtedly is the Cello Concerto composed for János Starker in 1968. If Kodály remains the predominant influence in the other works, here Rózsa seems closer to the Bartók of the Miraculous Mandarin judging by the pulsating and occasionally brutal rhythmic energy which characterises the outer movements.
Paul Watkins delivers a strongly committed performance of the Concerto, brilliantly negotiating the hair-raising technical challenges of the solo part but perhaps not always drawing quite as sharply etched an interpretation as Lynn Harrell on Telarc. Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic, supported by Chandos’s sumptuous recording, offer sterling support in the Concerto and revel in the virtuosity and luxuriant textures. Erik Levi