HUBAY: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 21 “Concerto dramatique”; Suite for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 5; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major – Hagai Shaham, violin/ BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion

by | May 18, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

HUBAY: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 21 “Concerto dramatique”; Suite for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 5; Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, Op. 90 – Hagai Shaham, violin/ BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Martyn Brabbins – Hyperion CDA67498,  73:21 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:

Jeno Hubay (nee Huber, 1858-1937) is a composer and pedagogue, founder of the “Hungarian school” of violin art, today known for a handful of gypsy-style showpieces, like Hejre Kati. The application of generous, rounded sound, a broad tone, a sophisticated,  energetic use of vibrato, defined the style listeners came to associate with the beneficiaries of this school: Szigeti, Bustabo, Vegh, Varga, and Feher. Hubay took counsel from diverse pedagogues, including Joachim, Liszt, and Vieuxtemps.

The earliest virtuoso piece in this rather stunning collection of Hungarian violin works is the Suite (1877; rev. 1881). A set of four Baroque dance styles–Gavotte, Idylle, Intermezzo, and Finale– are treated to a romantic orchestration and thorough series of bravura technical procedures, like runs in triplets. Hubay can spin out a melody, and he allows his violin part to sing in the manner of Spohr‚s Song-Scene Concerto, a doubtless influence. The Idylle is the essence of Hubay’s arioso style, and after it sings, it ends with a coda in high harmonics. Hubay likes marches, too, and his Intermezzo is typical of the martial air that dominates his two large concertos.

I find the two concertos (Hubay composed four) melodically captivating, if somewhat derivative of an amalgam we hear in Saint-Saens. Virtuoso cadenzas permeate the pieces, such as the A Minor Concerto (1885), at unexpected moments; then the concertos feature a broad melody, not so different in character from Saint-Saens‚ airy A Minor Concerto, Op. 20. The orchestration, rich in woodwinds and harps, has more than a touch of Bruch, whose G Minor Concerto Hubay favored. The E Major Concerto (1900) is perhaps the more folksy of the two concertos. The Larghetto enjoys a sweet melancholy that might have a touch of Scotland or maybe Mendelssohn.  Brilliant variations and equally florid codas are the essence of Hubay’s musical style. All played with finesse and considerable, energized devotion by Mssrs. Shaham and Brabbins, in fine sound from Caird Hall, Dundee 3-4 December 2004. As much a sonic treasure as a rich contribution to the Romantic violin legacy, this disc is a keeper.

— Gary Lemco

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