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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Leó Weiner - Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (Valéria Csányi)


Composer: Leó Weiner
  • (01) Ballad for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 28 (Version for Viola and Orchestra)
  • (02) Csongor and Tünde, ballet, Op. 10

Máté Szűcs, viola
Jubilate Girls Choir
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV
Valéria Csányi, conductor

Date: 2016
Label: Naxos



During the first half of the 20th century Leó Weiner was a bigwig in Hungarian musical life, especially as an educator. His students included Georg Solti, Fritz Reiner, János Starker and György Sebök, and while his compositions have been exported in dribs and drabs (his chamber music particularly), his orchestral works are hardly known.

The incidental music to Csongor and Tünde, based on a dramatic poem by the 19th-century writer Mihály Vörösmarty, started out as a 22-movement piece but was compressed to a nine-movement ballet; when the ballet was revived after the Second World War (by which time the Jewish Weiner was back in favour) it grew again, this time to 14 movements, which is what we have hear. There’s a shorter sequence on Hungaroton played by the North Hungarian Symphony Orchestra under László Kovács but, good though that is, I think this version by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra is finer, not only because there’s so much more music on offer, but because conductor Valéria Csányi shapes the score as if she really loves it, right from the opening movement, ‘Prince Csongor and Mirigy the Witch’, and in the third, ‘Fairy’s Dance and Mirigy’, with its highly imaginative woodwind-writing. Think in terms of Glazunov’s The Seasons transferred to Hungarian soil. There’s much else in the score that is memorably dramatic: ‘The Witch and the Temptress’, or the ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ for example (the latter with very effective brass and tam-tam); then again, for contrast, the gentle barcarolle ‘Tünde triumphs over evil’.

One could quote many possible influences or parallels: in terms of Weiner’s compatriots, Bartók of The Wooden Prince or perhaps Dohnányi; and beyond Hungary, Richard Strauss, even Roussel. It’s a style that’s ideal for conjuring up magic or fairy-tale fantasy, which is what this is. The disc’s opening selection, a viola version of a Ballad for clarinet and orchestra, beautifully played by Máté Szu˝cs, blithely rhapsodises in the manner of the Eastern Romantics. All in all, a pleasurable experience, well recorded.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone


Leó Weiner (16 April 1885 – 13 September 1960), was one of the leading Hungarian music educators. He studied at the Academy of Music in Budapest with János (Hans) Koessler, winning numerous prizes there. He was appointed music theory teacher at the Budapest Academy of Music in 1908, professor of composition in 1912 and professor of chamber music in 1920. Among his many students were Fritz Reiner, Georg Solti, Peter Erős, Béla Síki, János Starker and György Sebők. As a composer, Weiner's compositions were strongly influenced by the early Romantics from Beethoven through Mendelssohn.


Valéria Csányi (born 2 October 1958) is a Hungarian conductor. She obtained a music teacher and coral conductor diploma in 1982 and a conductor’s diploma in 1984 at Liszt Academy of Music. She has been a member of the Hungarian State Opera since 1983, and conducted her first ballet performance, the Nutcracker, in 1995. Between 1995 and 2009, she took part in all ballet productions of the Hungarian State Opera, where she conducted about 700 performances. Csányi has toured Austria, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Mexico, and has made several recordings for Naxos Records.


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