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János VÉGH (1845-1918)
String Quartet in F major [23:02]
String Quartet in G minor [23:17]
String Quartet in D major [27:25]
Authentic Quartet
rec. Hungaroton Studio, Budapest, 7-10 June 2013
HUNGAROTON HCD32726 [73:54]

Nineteenth century Hungarian composer János Végh studied composition with Mihály Mosonyi (1815-1870), whose own works included two symphonies and seven string quartets. Végh was a staunch Wagnerian and a close friend of Liszt and transcribed his Dante Symphony for piano duet. He was also highly placed in Hungarian musical academic circles. He was no iconoclast if his choices evidenced by this disc are to be believed.
 
The music is easeful and engaging. It follows accustomed late-romantic tracks without a hint of Zemlinskian spice. Perish the thought that he should admit any Schoenbergian dodecaphony. No, what we have are three four-movement string quartets that slide neatly into the drawer also occupied by Goldmark, Smetana, Beethoven, Dvořák and early Richard Strauss. There are surprises along the way but they are not shocks. The chuckling, smilingly debonair Serenatina of the F major epitomises the upper crust café culture of the Austro-Hungarian metropolitan elite. The music positively drawls and slurps in echt Kreislerian fashion. It’s almost music-hall. The Presto of the G minor likewise. Think in terms of the affable writing in Smetana’s First Quartet. At other times these quartets sound like late Schubert, even when they are tempestuous as in the bustling finale of the G minor. The D major is the longest and most emotionally intense of the three with a graceful Vivace to take some of the edge off an earnest Andantino and a ten minute-long Allegro con spirito.
 
This is the first recording of these three string quartets which have been rescued from manuscript perdition by the attentive players who now present the music with such engagement. No dates of composition are given for them but my guess is 1890-1910.
 
Végh’s other works include a Violin Sonata in E flat major which was premiered by Jenö Hubay in Budapest in 1899. There was a further such sonata in F major and an F Major Mass. We live in hope.
 
The Authentic Quartet plays on period instruments and at first this and/or the recording sounded overly vivid - raw even. Very rapidly that impression faded as Végh and these players worked their spell.
 
Rob Barnett