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George Enescu (1881 - 1955)

Rhapsody Rumanian Rhapsody Op. 11, No.1

Rumanian Rhapsody Op. 11, No.2

Antonin Dvořak (1841 - 1904)

Slavonic Rhapsody Op. 45, No.3

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886) Hungarian Rhapsody, No.2 (No.12)

Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)

Spanish Rhapsody

In ancient Greece, The source of the word, a rhapsody was part of anepisodic poem, chanted by the rhapsodist, one section stitched, as it were, tothe next. The early nineteenth century found a new use for the word. In Praguethe Bohemian composer Vaclav Tomasek plundered the vocabulary of classicalGreece for his piano Eclogues, Dithyrambs and a series of fifteen Rhapsodies.

The last term, at least, caught on, and the century saw a continuing use of theword to describe composition in free form, often highly dramatic and equallyoften turning to national themes.

Franz Liszt added particularly to the rhapsodic repertoire with hisnineteen Hungarian Rhapsodies. Misunderstanding the nature of the music heimitated and transformed, he considered his Rhapsodies an embodiment of gypsymusic, untrammelled by the trappings of the conventional world. It took thetwentieth century Hungarian composer and enthusiastic folk-music collector BelaBarlok to draw attention to Liszt's mistake, What passed in Hungary for gypsymusic was largely written by those of a more privileged class, but played bythe gypsies to entertain their betters. So-called Hungarian gypsy music was, infact, popular art music, but none the less Hungarian for that. The most popularof Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, No.2

in the orchestral arrangements the composer made with the aid of Franz Doppler,and No.12 in the set of 19 for piano, was composed in 1853 and dedicated to theyoung virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, who that year had brought Brahms tovisit him. It is based on earlier versions made by Liszt in the 1840s, evidenceof the composer's growing loyalty to a country that he had left in childhood,and the language of which he had never learned. With the growing success ofHungarian nationalism within the Habsburg Empire, Liszt was to become somethingof a national hero, a position that the popular Rhapsodies did much to justify.

For Liszt and for many of his contemporaries in Paris the words gypsyand Bohemian were synonymous. Antonin Dvořak was no gypsy, but of soundBohemian village stock, the son of a butcher-cum-innkeeper. In spite of earlydifficulties, he succeeded in making his way in Prague, where he worked for anumber of years as an orchestral viola-player, before turning primarily tocomposition as a means of earning a living. In this latter course he had theencouragement of Brahms, whose own piano duet HungarianDances led to Dvořak's equally successful Slavonic Dances. The three Slavonic Rhapsodies were written in thesame year as the first series of dances, 1878. The third of the set opens witha passage for the harp, the prelude to some bardic song, followed by thewoodwind, deployed with the composer's usual skill. The violins enter with aflourish and the drama intensifies, before the appearance of a winningdance-tune. There is an interlude, during which solo violin and flute lead backto the dance once more. After further moments of brief repose, the music whirlsto an end that brings its own surprise.

George Enescu, during his long residence in Paris better known asGeorges Enesco, was among the leading violinists of the twentieth century. Hisown interests, nevertheless, centred rather on composition, drawing frequentinspiration from his native country, Rumania, with which he preserved strongconnections. His two Rumanian Rhapsodies,Opus 11, completed in 1901, have continued to enjoy wide popularity.

They make relatively few demands on the listener and rely heavily on looselyconnected episodes based on Rumanian folk-songs and folk-dances. The firstRhapsody uses three well known folk-songs, while the second is based on a Moldavian ballad, an important element inthe folk-music of the country, a form in which events from the heroic past areimaginatively related.

The French composer Maurice Ravel inherited from his mother, of Basqueorigin, a strong interest in Spain, tempered by the precision inherited fromhis father, a Swiss-born engineer. Spanish influence appeared in the first ofhis two operas, L'heure espagnole,in the piano piece, published in 1905 as part of Miroirs, Alborada dei gracioso, in the famous Habanera and indeed in the very choice oftitle for the enormously popular Pavane pourune infante defunte. Later in life the ballet tour de force Boleroprovided an opportunity for orchestral virtuosity with a Spanish flavour, andone of his last compositions was the setting of three Don Quixote songs for a film in whichShalyapin was to star. The Rapsodieespagnole was completed in 1908 and consists of four movements, theevocative Prelude a la nuit, Malaguena,Habanera, based on the earlier work for piano, and Feria. It is the first major orchestralwork of the composer, a demonstration of his originality and of his gifts as anorchestrator. The music moves from the stillness of night to two characteristicSpanish dances and a final Spanish fiesta.

Disc: 1
Spanish Rhapsody
1 Romanian Rhapsody, Op. 11, No. 1
2 Romanian Rhapsody, Op. 11, No. 2
3 Slavonic Rhapsody, Op. 45, No. 3
4 Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (No. 12)
5 Prelude a la nuit - Malaguena - Habanera - Feria
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