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Ferenc FARKAS (1905-2000)
Music for Wind Ensemble
Early Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century (1943) arr. László Zempléni (2015) [10:16]
The Sly Students: Suite (1949) arr. Tony Kurmann (2013) [21:07]
Timon of Athens: Suite (1935/38) arr. Tony Kurmann (2014) [12:41]
Intrada, Passacaglia, Saltarello (1982) [8:48]
Tower Music from Nyírbátor (‘Little Tower Music’) (1967) [2:35]
Contrafacta Hungarica (1973-74 arr. 1976) [9:33]
Musica per Ottoni (1982) [6:31]
Csínom Palkó: Mischievous Tune (1949) arr. János Eördögh (1959)/Tony Kurmann (2014) [4:45]
Budapest Wind Symphony/László Marosi
rec. December 2015 and April 2016, rehearsal hall of the Dohnányi Orchestra, Budafok, Hungary
TOCCATA TOCC0349 [76:23]

A brief extract from one of my MWI reviews is reprinted in the booklet to this disc, noting Toccata’s ‘exemplary faith’ in the music of Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas. As well as volumes of orchestral, choral, chamber and wind music we now have one for wind ensemble. If the contents suggest Toccata’s faith has become almost crazed, then that’s to do with the complicated compositional nature of the pieces and the arrangements made of them. Any obsessive Farkas collector will recognise one or two of the pieces in the headnote.

The Early Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century is a set that remains one of his internationally best-known. It exists in a number of variant arrangements and orchestrations. The five-movement wind quintet version is on TOCC 0019, and flute and oboe versions of various movements from the cycle have also appeared in this series. These are heady if inherently confusing days for Farkas fanatics. This wind ensemble arrangement was compiled by the composer, but not orchestrated for concert band until László Zempléni did so in 2015, which makes one wonder if it was done for general consumption or more specifically for this extensive series of recordings, especially as other arrangements in this disc by Tony Kurmann are also very recent. The pieces themselves never lose their charm and are especially effective in this version – rich drone figures, plentiful colour, sonorous evocations and deft percussive touches bring the quintet of pieces warmly to life. The suite from the 1949 ballet The Sly Students was arranged by Kurmann in 2014 and it has a good-natured and bustling spirit with an infectious sway in the Students’ Dance and a rumbustious dance to finish, made up of a joky funeral march and then a fast and furious horseherds’ dance. Kurmann also arranged the brief three-movement Timon of Athens suite with its lucid but discreet evocations of Greek music, including a rather salty dance panel.

The Intrada, Passacaglia, Saltarello has been heard elsewhere in the series, but this wind ensemble version of the stylistically most up-to-date music in the disc works well in terms of texture, colour and crisp rhythmic vitality. For a kind of updated Gabrieli or Bassano you have the brief Tower Music from Nyírbátor whilst Contafacta Hungarica, which uses sixteenth century melodies, dates from 1973-74, though it was subsequently rearranged. It’s a set of six delightful dances. Musica per Ottoni was written in 1982 and is slightly more sardonic, whilst you’ll recognise its Allegro finale if you go back and play the Saltarello. Farkas was a fecund composer but he was – like this whole series – an expert recycler of material.

The ensembles drawn from the Budapest Wind Symphony vary from chamber ones to the full size one. There is nothing pretentious in this album. Much is based on old dance forms, much is lively, optimistic, uncomplicated, and all of it is worth a listen. It helps that the booklet is customarily excellent, the recording quality good and that László Marosi is such a buoyant interpreter.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Dan Morgan (Recording of the Month)


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