KODALY: Galanta Dances / Marosszek Dances / The Peacock (Adrian Leaper/ Gabriel Koncer/ Karol Kopernicky/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550520)
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Zoltan Kolaly (1882 - 1967)
Dances of Galanta
Dances of Marosszek
Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (The Peacock)
The development of national consciousness in the second half ofthe nineteenth century led to some curious misunderstandings, not the least of which wereLiszt's use of Hungarian gypsy music in his popular Hungarian Rhapsodies, music that wasessentially composed for the entertainment of audiences, rather than genuine folk-song orfolk-dance. It was left to Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kolaly to put matters to rights, withtheir better informed investigations of the true folk-music of the different regions ofHungary and neighbouring countries.
Zoltan Kolaly was born in 1882 at Kecskemet, fifty milessouth-east of Budapest, where his father, an employee of the railways, was booking-clerk.
The following year the family moved to Szob, where Kolaly's father became station-master,and in 1885 there was a further transfer, this time to Galanta, on the main line fromBudapest to Bratislava, the capital of modern Slovakia. Galanta became part of the newrepublic of Czechoslovakia in 1920, but under Hitler became once more part of Hungary. Thecomposer spent seven years in Galanta, a period later reflected in the Dances of Galanta. This was followed by a furthereight years in the largely Slovak town of Nagyszombat (Trnava), where his father had beentransferred. In 1900 he entered the Pazmany University in Budapest to study German andHungarian, at the same time taking lessons at the Academy of Music, where his compositionteacher was the German Hans Koessler, a cousin of Max Reger, a musician for whom Hungariantraditional folk-song had no place. His doctoral thesis in 1906 was devoted to a study ofHungarian folksong, in the collection and investigation of which he had already busiedhimself, together with Bartok.
After a brief period of study in Berlin, Kolaly returned toHungary to join the staff of the Academy, where in 1908 he took over the first-yearcomposition class. In the following years he continued his activities as a composer and asa collector of folk-song, finding in the second activity a necessary foundation for artmusic that was genuinely Hungarian rather than in the accepted German mould. He becamedeputy director of the Academy, which was granted the status of a university in theshort-lived Hungarian Republic that was established in 1919, but was barred for a timefrom teaching after the fall of the Republic four months later and the accession to powerof Admiral Horthy.
Increasing international attention grew in the next years, withpublication of Kolaly's music abroad and in particular with the first performance outsideHungary of Psalmus Hungaricus in 1926 and the later performance abroad of excerpts fromHary Janos. When he was able to resume his duties as a teacher, he was able to continueto exercise a strong influence on younger composers and a still greater influence over thewhole process of music education in Hungary, with methods that have continued to findconsiderable favour elsewhere. His essential task was to establish a truly nationalHungarian musical tradition, to be absorbed, as it was in his own music, into arecognisably Hungarian form of art music. Kolaly remained in Hungary, when Bart6k,another opponent of the Horthy regime, took refuge abroad. Nevertheless he was accordedvarious honours in Hungary, which continued under the new post-war dispensation, coupledwith international recognition of his work as a composer and as a teacher. He died inBudapest in 1967.
The Galanta Dances
were written in 1933 and first performed in Budapest in the same year at a concert by theBudapest Philharmonic Society, which had commissioned the work in celebration of itseightieth anniversary. Based on an earlier collection of folk-dance melodies, the Galanta Dances are essentially in the Hungarianverbunkos tradition, in origin a recruiting dance, lacking the brutality of the press-gangor the subterfuge of the King's shilling adopted by other nations. The verbunkos made useof existing folk-material, giving rise, however, to its own peculiar musical idiom.
Kolaly presents the dances in the form of a rondo.
The Dances of Marosszek havean earlier origin in a group of piano pieces that Kodaly wrote in 1927. They wereorchestrated in 1930 and make use of the composer's collection of Transylvani anfolk-music. Both sets of dances were used for a ballet by the Hungarian-Italian dancer andchoreographer Aurel von Milloss.
The Variations on aHungarian Folksong were completed in 1939 in response to a commission by theConcertgebouw Orchestra in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary. The Variations werefirst performed the same year in Amsterdam under Mengelberg. The folk-song on which thevariations are based, The Peacock, was drawn from the district of Somogy and the Maripeople. The allusive words describe the flight of the peacock to the Town Hall prison, forthe freedom of many a young man; the bird promises a new future, rather than acontinuation of present sorrows. The text of the song was, of course, unacceptable to theauthorities in Hungary, but represented well enough the feeling of many at the time, as ithad done in earlier Hungarian history. The thematic material is at first presented insimple and then in elaborated form, before a series of sixteen variations and a finale,meticulously orchestrated and providing a treatment of the original melody that is bothwithin and beyond the folk traditions of Hungary.
Adrian Leaper was appointed Assistant Conductor to StanislawSkrowaczewski of the Halle Orchestra in 1986, and has since then enjoyed an increasinglybusy career, with engagements at home and throughout Europe. Born in 1953, Adrian Leaperstudied at the Royal Academy of Music and was for a number of years co-principal Frenchhorn in the Philharmonia Orchestra, before turning his attention exclusively toconducting. He has been closely involved with the Naxos and Marco Polo labels and has beenconsequently instrumental in introducing elements of English repertoire to Eastern Europe.
His numerous recordings include a complete cycle of Sibelius symphonies for Naxos.