- Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor ("Dramatique"), Op. 21
- Scenes From Czardas No. 3 for violin & piano ("Maros Vize"), Op. 18
- Scenes From Czardas No. 4 for violin & piano ("Hejre Kati"), Op. 32
- Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major, Op. 90
Hubay: Violin Concertosby Chloë Hanslip
Jenö Hubay's violin concertos -- there are four of them -- have been recorded twice before in the digital era, most conspicuously by Hagai Shaham for Hyperion and Vilmos Szabadi for Hungaraton. Considered the father of the Hungarian violin school, Hubay is best known for the folk-flavored "Hejre Kato, Op. 32/4," which comes from his series of single pieces "Scènes de la Csàrda." Before 2000, recordings of Hubay's violin concertos were quite rare; during the LP era only the "Violin Concerto No. 3 in G minor, Op. 99," was issued in the West, as recorded by Aaron Rosand for Vox in 1972. Needless to say, with this sort of famine turned into a near feast, one can be relatively selective in picking among the various offerings for these works. Naxos has brought out one of its big guns to bear on Hubay in recording English violin sensation Chloë Hanslip in its Jenö Hubay: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2; can concertos No. 3 and No. 4 be far behind? There's a reason these concertos aren't done very often. Hubay's short pieces are great, affording a soloist the opportunity to show off some flash in 6-10 minutes; moreover, these pieces are ripe with the Hungarian folk idiom that seldom fails to please an audience. The concertos are different, however; the technical requirements of Hubay's large-scale works are almost ridiculous, and for the average soloist to keep this level of execution up for a full half hour is as much a test of endurance as virtuosity. While Hubay may have been a great violinist, he was only a fair orchestrator and particularly in the "Concerto No. 2" the operetta-styled orchestration can sound a little cloying over time and competes to some extent with the soloist. What Hanslip brings to this project is youth and starry-eyed enthusiasm; her violin blazes with energy throughout this supreme test of her ability; the "Dramatique" concerto (No. 1) is just that. The shorter pieces are pulled off with gusto and aplomb. With Andrew Mogrelia and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hanslip has a far more sympathetic accompaniment than the ratty band that supports Szabadi on the Hungaraton, though it is not as smooth and sleek as the BBC Scottish under Martyn Brabbins that backs Shaham on Hyperion. Shaham also benefits somewhat by virtue of greater familiarity with the material and the Hungarian violin idiom in general; his performances are assured and confident, whereas Hanslip's are at times impulsive, though not without a certain refreshing spontaneity and sense of discovery that's attractive. It is no secret that Naxos has an enormous standing catalog, and when new artists come aboard they need to find ways to avoid duplicating what's already in the catalog. With Hanslip's next Naxos album, they really ought to let her record the Beethoven concerto or whatever else she really loves and knows like the back of her hand. Because as good a job as she does on Jenö Hubay: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, it still sounds like a lot of work.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsChloë Hanslip Primary Artist
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Before coming to this recording I knew very little about the composer Jenö Hubay. Seeing his dates (1858-1937) and that he was Hungarian, I thought he might be something of a lesser-known Bartok or Kodaly and I hoped for music filled with pungent tonalities and spicy rhythms. Not really. Hubay was of German extraction, a disciple of violinist Joseph Joachim and a friend of Franz Liszt and Henri Vieuxtemps, among others. You can see where this is going, yes? Hubay's music is flashy, accessible and a pure delight for virtuoso violinists. I found it unbearably tedious. This is purely my personal take on things. I'm not a big fan of the 19th century violinist/composer school and really can't sit through concertos of Paganini, Vieuxtemps, Spohr, or any of those guys. All of that being said, the two concertos are well-crafted and filled with some really lovely tunes, especially in the slow movements of the concertos. Problem for me was that most of this sounded so vacuous that my mind kept thinking, "I really wish I was listening to the violinist (the superb Chloë Hanslip) playing the Brahms Concerto or Sibelius or Bartok." My misery was compounded by the two shorter pieces: Scènes de la Csárda Nos. 3 and 4. I detest what composers from the 19th century violin school do with Gypsy music, so all I could do was sit through it and immediately play a Taraf de haidouks CD to clean out my ears. Hanslip is a breathtakingly fine violinist and she is ably supported by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. I only wish she would go after more contemporary repertoire - her recording of the John Adams Violin Concerto is life-changing. But if she continues down the path of playing music by such composers as Bazzini, Godard and Hubay, I'll just wait outside until she gets it out of her system.