Robert Plane: Contrasts, Impressions of Hungary
Robert Plane is always inquiring as to repertoire and his new disc surveys almost six decades of Hungarian music, beginning with Contrasts (1938), which Bartók wrote for Benny Goodman, Joseph Szigeti and himself with the length of 12‑inch 78rpm discs in mind. Incisive if a little reined in, this version is at its best in the central ‘Relaxation’ with its night-music overtones.
Of the shorter works that ensue, Miklós Rózsa’s pert and economical Sonatina (1957) might surprise those who know this composer merely from his epic film scores, while Chamber Folk Music (1949) sees Tibor Serly handling his material with a resourcefulness akin to his realisation of Bartók’s Viola Concerto. Very different in overall aesthetic, György Kurtág’s Hommage à R Sch (1990) finds this composer at his most hermetic, the fleeting brevity of its first five numbers complemented by a final ‘Abschied’ with its fugitive withdrawal into silence. Quite a contrast with the Two Movements (1951) in which Leó Weiner underlines his attractively understated handling of folk music within modest and refined dimensions.
Finally, to Ernő Dohnányi and the Sextet (1935), which is his last substantial chamber work. As often in this composer’s maturity, outwardly conventional formal design is belied by the dexterity of its motivic ideas as they evolve across and between movements – the finale an extended coda to what went before as it rounds off matters with the deftest tonal sideslip.
Plane’s musicianship is abetted throughout by that of his colleagues, the whole well served by lucid recorded sound and an insightful booklet note from Daniel Jaffé. Collecting such a programme by other means would not be easy; better simply to acquire this disc and enjoy.