“Csakan & Biedermeier” = KREAEHMER: Introduction, Variations and Polonaise; Variations brillantes; Rondeau hongrois Works by HUNYADY, LAVOTTA, HEBERLE, GELINEK – Siri Rovatkay-Sohns, csakan/Lajos Ravatkay, tafelklavier – GEMA

by | Oct 7, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Csakan & Biedermeier” = KREAEHMER: Introduction, Variations and Polonaise, Op. 6; Variations brillantes, Op. 18; Rondeau hongrois, Op. 28; HUNYADY: Adagio and Poco Allegretto, Op. 2, No. 3; Concerto-Polonaise, Op. 14; Nos. 1, 2 and 3 from “Honi emlek-fuzer”; LAVOTTA: Nos. 1, 2 and 4 from Aescht ungarische National-Taenze; GELINEK: Rondo for Csakan and Pianoforte; HEBERLE: Adagio from Sonate brillante for Solo Csakan – Siri Rovatkay-Sohns, csakan/Lajos Ravatkay, tafelklavier – GEMA VKJK 0807, 65: 14  ****:

A curio of the so-called Biedermeier Period. c. 1810-1840, the csakan–an evolution of the labial pipe that gave us the recorder–emerged as a middle class instrument of lightness and lithe flexibility, with its restricted register of A-flat (and occasionally A) and hollow, vibrant tone color, a compromise between the soprano recorder and the tranverse flute of the modern symphony orchestra. A narrow bore permits the csakan a full fourth in tonal range beyond that of a Baroque recorder. The instrument thrived among the households of the major music capitals of Europe: Vienna, Graz, Bratislava, Pesth, Brno, and Linz. The instrument’s invention is attributed to the Hungarian, virtuoso flute player Anton Haberle; but Ernest Kraehmer (1795-1837) is the first early-romantic composer to assemble a formidable catalogue of csakan works in various forms, often asking a guitar or forte-piano to accompany the versatile, birdlike sound of the csakan. Kraehler’s large piece, the Variations brillantes, Op. 18 (1829), plays essentially as a Paganini-like series of flourishes on Rossini’s cavatina, “Ah! Come nascondere” from The Lady of the Lake. A refined piano part inhabits this piece, an excellent vehicle for Professor Rovatkay’s digital talents.

Siri Rovatkay-Sohns is a Hanover professor of recorder who has fluently promulgated the csakan as her special, artistic mission. She opens her recital with an airy piece, Introduction, Variations, and Polonaise of Kraehmer (1822), a bravura work that might quote Haydn’s Surprise Symphony in its wanderings. A solo piece by Janos Hunyadi (1807-1865) captures the national Hungarian flavor of a verbunkos (recruiting dance), and the Liszt-Bartok spirit cannot be far away. Hunyadi’s Concert-Polonaise, Op. 14 (1829) is the largest work on this disc, an extended aria followed by brilliant figures easily reminiscent of Carl Maria von Weber‘s often breathless runs. Kraehmer’s tour de force comes last: his 1830 Rondeau hongrois, Op. 28, a combination of stately palotas (palace-dance) and verbunkos in two parts, often requiring exemplary breath-control from solo Rovatkay-Sohns. A distinct Italianate sensibility flows through the gliding figures, again reminiscent of Rossini as cross-pollinated by Weber. Finally, homage to the inventor of the csakan, Anton Heberle, from a solo sonata composed circa 1800, we have the two outer movements, Adagio and Menuetto. A florid line, apoggiaturas, quick shifts in pitch and octave, even a deep trill, and stuttered and rapid figurations mark this grueling piece, all rendered by virtuoso Rovatkay-Sohns like a woman in love.

The pearly sound of the keyboard opens Janos Lavotta’s Op. 36, No. 2 for strings, here arranged by Josef Gelinek as a keyboard dance Schubert would have admired. The  No. 4 bears some similarity to Beethoven’s tune for his Choral-Fantasy, Op. 80. Gelinek (1758-1825) has representation in a stately, limpid rondo (1812) for csakan and piano. Lavotta’s No. 1 from “Honi emlek fuezer” (“Home-like Garland”) sounds a cross between Liszt’s A Minor Hungarian Rhapsody (No. 11) and Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs. No. 2 proves more pensive, maybe a variation-study for a Brahms excursion. No. 3 uses grace notes, trills,  and agogics to slide lithely through Hungarian melancholy, a touch of Liszt’s Fourth Rhapsody. Its precious balance between keyboard and cembalom sonorities keeps us mesmerized as it paces its way to a melancholy smile.

This disc marks the debut of this instrument, the csakan, on records, and the inscription marks the 200th anniversary of its official appearance as a concert instrument.

–Gary Lemco


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