Tamás Bródy

Abrahám Pál: Bál a Savoyban

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This disc presents songs from operettas by Pál Ábrahám, known in English as Paul Abraham, a Hungarian composer who worked in Europe in the 1930s up to the last possible minute before leaving for Cuba and then the U.S. The booklet has no texts and is in Hungarian only. Translations might have given Hungaroton an international hit, for the music is delightful even for listeners without a word of Hungarian -- for most of the music is in that language, even for the pieces from Abraham's best-known work, known as Viktoria und ihr Husar in German. Therefore it's all the more charming to hear occasional phrases in heavily accented English, as well as even (most of) an entire song, the awkwardly phrased and altogether sublimely strange "My Golden Baby," from a work called Hawaii rózsája (also known by its German title, Die Blume von Hawaii, or Hawaiian Flowers). There's nothing particularly Hawaiian about this tune, but American jazz is represented here and in several other pieces, as well as its very close competitor in interwar central Europe, the Argentine tango (hear "La bella Tangolita," track 9). These rhythms are rendered by the musicians with just the level of awkwardness they must have had in the 1930s, which is appropriate, for they are filtered here through an Old World sensibility. Indeed, the pieces not drawn on models from the Americas remind you in turn of just how Austro-Hungarian -- not just Viennese -- many aspects of the early American musicals really were. Abraham uses the extensive, chromatic orchestral introductions and the technique of expressing emotion by distorting a dance rhythm that one associates with Jerome Kern, who likely knew this music well. There are strong indications throughout that undiscovered treasures are here for the finding.

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