Charles Castleman

Jenö Hubay: Scènes de la Csárda

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One major figure of the violin who has been conspicuously missing from the recorded repertoire is Jenö Hubay. Since he was a one-time student of Joseph Joachim and Henri Vieuxtemps, friend of Liszt and Brahms, and head of the Budapest Academy of Music (now the Franz Liszt Academy) during the period in which it turned out its finest pupils, one would think that Hubay's credentials would be more than sufficient to sustain his posthumous reputation. However, as an ardent foe of Communism, and also Joachim (after a nasty rupture in their relations), and as a man who married into the nobility, Hubay seems to have been a Hungarian on the wrong side of all the issues that counted in the years following World War II. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, interest in Hubay is slowly coming back, and Music and Arts' set Jenö Hubay: Scènes de la Csarda goes a long way to restoring his primacy.

Jenö Hubay: Scènes de la Csarda is a two-disc survey featuring digital recordings of Hubay's music on the first disc, played with brilliance and gusto by violinist Charles Castleman, along with historical recordings on the second disc featuring Hubay himself and a number of his pupils interpreting his works. The pupils here are not minor-league violinists, but include such stellar names as Jelly d'Aranyi, Mary Zentay, Franz von Vecsey, and Joseph Szigeti. In the newer recordings, made with the Eastman Chamber Orchestra led by Mendi Rodan, Castleman is superb, playing these Hubay pieces with authority, sensitivity, and fire. The Eastman Chamber Orchestra seems a bit uneasy at times, as the pieces are mostly unfamiliar and hinge strongly on what cues the soloist provides, but the ensemble does pull it off. The audio quality on the historical recordings is understandably variable, coming as they do from studios all over the world and ranging chronologically from 1917 to 1959. In general the quality of the transfers, made by Graham Wilson and Ed Wilkinson, are excellent.

Violinists who are looking to expand their repertoire into the realm of Hubay will find a lot of stimulation with Jenö Hubay: Scènes de la Csarda. Others might tire of the relentless Hungarian Rhapsody format that Hubay prefers -- the slow lassú flowed by the sprightly friska. The best solution to that challenge is to take Jenö Hubay: Scènes de la Csarda in small doses to maximize one's enjoyment.

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