SCHUBERT: Piano Works for Four Hands, Vol. 2 (Jeno Jando/ Zsuzsa Kollar) (Naxos: 8.553441)
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It was conventional in Schubert's day to start musical education as a chorister, and young Franz had the honour of being a member of the Imperial Chapel in Vienna. He was born in 1797, the son of a schoolmaster, and his membership of the choir gave him access to the highest education. He decided to forego that in order to follow in his father's footsteps as a schoolteacher, but soon found he did not enjoy that profession, and spent as much time as he could studying composition with Salieri.
He was a prolific writer, composing no less than 144 songs in his eighteenth year. Though for two years he did teach music in Hungary, no one quite knows how he financially survived for the rest of his life. By 1821 he had written over 600 works including the first six symphonies. Most of it was unperformed and unpublished, friends buying him the manuscript paper he could not afford.
His crazy workload, little food, but revelry with friends until the early hours of the morning, helped a venereal disease to break his health, and he died in 1828 aged 31, with over 900 works to his credit. They included nine symphonies, operas, over 600 songs, sacred and secular choral works, a violin concerto, and a large number of chamber and instrumental works.
In 1818 Schubert was given the post of tutor to the two daughters of Count Esterh_zy, the sixteen-year-old, Marie, and her twelve-year-old sister, Caroline. It was for them that Schubert returned to his music for four hands, though, as with much of his output, we can only guess its date of origin. Certainly among the finest of the period was the Three Military Marches, where he creates a good feeling of strength and vivacity without writing music of technical difficulty. They were marches for the concert-hall rather than the military parade, the first becoming one of his most frequently played works in its many guises, simply known as Marche Militaire.
We do, however have a date for the Overture, which was completed in October 1819, and appears never to have had an orchestral garb in mind. After a slow introduction, and with a central section of considerable tenderness, it concludes in a happy and lively coda.
The Four Polonaises may well come from this same era. Each one is written in three sections, with two fast segments framing a central Trio. Again these are happy and pleasant compositions suitable for his skilled pupils, but omitting the extreme difficulties of his great solo piano works.
Equally we date the two works coupled under D. 968 as from 1818 or 1819, and could well have been little works to please his pupil's parents. The Allegro takes its flavour from the military marches, while the Andante has a lyrical aspect that we would associate with his songs.
The Fantasy predates this time, and is accurately dated as 1811. Its title is unusual in that the work is very formal, and at times is almost an exercise in the use of counterpoint. It does not feature among his finest compositions, though the slow section, which ends the work, finds Schubert at his most dramatic.
In the year before his death, Schubert wrote a set of variations on a theme from H_rold's opera, Marie, which had scored such a resounding success at the Paris Op_ra-Comique the previous year. It is a work that grows in intensity and technical difficulty from the simple melody used as the theme.
Jand_ is probably the most recorded pianist of our time, his catalogue of works embracing music from the Baroque era to the great music of the present century. He came to prominence almost 25 years ago when winning first prize in the Hungarian Piano Competition. He has since toured extensively as a concerto soloist, working in particular with the major Hungarian orchestras. His recitals have taken him as far afield as Australia and the United States. But above all, Jand_ is a complete musician, equally happy accompanying other artists.
He has received critical acclaim for the complete recording of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas and Mozart's Piano Concertos on the Naxos label, and he is also part of the team recording the complete piano works of Liszt now appearing on Naxos. Of his previous Schubert recordings, Penguin Guide described him as \a thoroughly sympathetic and sensitive Schubertian".
Zsusza Koll_r was born in Budapest in 1959, and in 1977 became a pupil of Jand_ at the Liszt Academy. Upon graduating she formed a duo relationship with Gabriella L_ng, and together studied with Alfons Kontarsky, one of the brothers in the famous duo. She has also enjoyed many competition successes, and now has a busy solo career. This is her first entry in the international CD catalogue.
Was made in one of Naxos's major recording venues in Hungary, the Unitarian Church in Budapest. The sessions took place in November, 1994.
There are almost direct equivalents already in the catalogue, many played by some of the most celebrated duos, such as Edan and Tamir, and the Kontarsky Brothers. None are at super-budget price, and Jand_ has already created such highly favourable reviews for his Schubert recordings as to make this disc an indispensable addition to the catalogue. It is the second volume in Schubert's music for four hands, and of the first volume, the American Record Guide wrote, "I have no difficulty in suggesting this as the first choice for the music".