Istvan Kassai

Weiner: Serenade; String Quartet No. 1; Csongor és Tünde; Toldi

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There are two very cool things about this disc. First, it makes available utterly beguiling late Romantic works for (mostly) four-hand piano with which most listeners will otherwise be utterly unaware. Second, it features one pianist playing all four hands. No, he's not a freak of nature or siamese twins: he's what they used to call double-tracked or over-dubbed. And it's wonderful; it's all wonderful. The music of Hungarian fin de siècle composer Leó Weiner isn't as adventurous as the music of his contemporaries Bartók or Kodály, but what it lacks in excitement, it makes up for in charm. In the pre-Great War Serenade, Op. 3, and String Quartet, Op. 4, Weiner's ingratiating melodies, swaying rhythms, and seductive harmonies will charm any fan of Fuchs and Volkmann. In the post-Great War ballet music Csongor and Tünde, Op. 10c, or incidental music of Toldi, Op. 43c, Weiner's more passionate melodies, more robust rhythms, and more impressionistic harmonies will delight any fan of Schmidt or Schoeck. These performances by Hungarian pianist István Kassai, whether in the four-hand Serenade and String Quartet arrangements or in the two-hand ballet and incidental music arrangements, are consistently first-rate. His technique is impressive and his bravura playing is more impressive, but most impressive of all is his ability to play duets with himself. Captured in clean, close, and quite direct digital sound, this disc will enchant listeners looking for something unfamiliar but entertaining and unusual but attractive.

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