Gellért Tihanyi (feat. Márta Kurtág, Z. Gál, J. Selmeczi, I. Rohmann, B. Faragó) Kurtág, Bartók, Faragó, Stravinsky, Reich

BMCCD048 2001

I do not consider everyone I have taught a pupil of mine. But it was my choice to make Gellért Tihanyi my pupil in his student days, and in the past 25 years I have considered him my colleague. I have been able to entrust him with several of my compositions because his instrumental training and incredible empathy guarantee that we understand each other.

György Kurtág


Gellért Tihanyi - clarinet, bass clarinet, Eb clarinet, gran cassa
Márta Kurtág - piano (1-6)
Zoltán Gál - viola (1-6)
János Selmeczi - violin (7-9)
Imre Rohmann - piano (7-9)
Béla Faragó - piano (10-13)

About the album

Tracks 1-9, 14-6 recorded at the Phoenix Studio, Hungary
Recording producer: András Wilheim
Balance engineer: János Bohus
Digital editing: Veronika Vincze, Mária Falvay

Tracks 10-13 recorded at the Hungarian Radio
Recording producer:Péter Aczél
Balance engineer: Károly Horváth

Track 17 recorded at the Hungarian Radio
Recording producer: Tibor Szemző
Balance engineer: Károly Horváth

Cover photo: István Huszti
Inside cover photo: Zoltán Gaál
Portrait photo: Andrea Felvégi
Design: Meral Yasar
Architect: Bachman

Produced by László Gőz

The recording was sponsored by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and the Soros Foundation.

3500 HUF 11 EUR

György Kurtág: Hommage á R. Sch., op. 15/d

01 Merkwürdige Pirouetten des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler – Vivo 0:48
02 E.: Der begrenzte Kreis... – Molto semplice, piano e legato 0:35
03 ...und wieder zuckt es schmerzlich F. um die Lippen... – Feroce, agitato 0:45
04 Felhő valék, már süt a nap... (Töredék-töredék) – Calmo, scorrevole 0:21
05 In der Nacht – Presto 0:54
06 Abschied (Meister Raro entdeckt Guillaume de Machaut) – Adagio, poco andante 5:57

Béla Bartók: Contrasts, three pieces for clarinet, violin & piano, Sz 111. / BB 116

07 I. Verbunkos (Recruiting Dance) – Moderato ben ritmato 5:45
08 II. Pihenő (Relaxation) – Lento 4:40
09 III. Sebes (Fast dance) – Allegro vivace 7:15

Béla Faragó: Gregor Samsa’s Desires

10 I. Gregor Samsa’s desires 7:51
11 II. Grete and Gregor 3:58
12 III. Gregor’s Dream 3:49
13 IV. “Good Morning, Mr. Samsa!” 5:59

Igor Stravinsky: Three pieces for clarinet solo(arranged by Gellért Tihanyi)

14 I. Sempre piano e molto tranquillo 1:37
15 II. 1:26
16 III. 1:24

Steve Reich:

17 New York Counterpoint 11:14
Total time 64:18

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Kurtág György: Hommage a R. Sch.

“It was thanks to Gellért Tihanyi's student trio that I became acquainted with Schumann's composition Märchenerzählungen - to which I replied at the time with the first movement of Hommage a R. Sch. Fifteen years later, at the instigation of András Wilheim, I completed the piece, and entrusted its first performance to Gellért Tihanyi, accompanied by Zoltán Gál and Márta Kurtág” - recollects the composer. References to composers and works from bygone musical eras are essential components of the works of György Kurtág (1926) hence the significance of the title. For instance Játékok (Games) is a series of compositions for the piano that have been continually added to since 1973 and it is a rich treasury of studies in style as well as caricature pieces of the homage genre, with the same gestures of obeisance to another artist as in Kurtág's other works. Indeed, the title Hommage a R. Sch. (Robert Schumann) Op. 15/d, 1975-1990; composed at the request of Gellért Tihanyi, openly alludes to this gesture (Bartók has a piece under the same title, published as No. 80, Mikrokozmosz, Vol. 3.). Kurtág's first reference is the orchestration itself, which repeats that of the Märchenerzählungen cycle (Op. 132, 1854), a late work of Schumann also composed for clarinet, viola and pianoforte. The second reference is to three of Schumann's alter-egos, members of David's society, in the mottos of the movements: the gentle Eusebius in the second movement, the violent Florestan in the third and, finally, the wise Meister Raro in the sixth. The system of references is enriched by the caption of the first movement, Merkwürdige Pirouetten des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler (Strange Pirouettes of Conductor Kreisler) which conjure up a figure from E. T. A. Hoffman's novel, Kater Murr; the title of the fourth movement (Felhő valék, már süt a nap - I was a cloud, the sun has come), is a line from Attila József's poem Two Songs (1928). The motto of the second movement, E: [= Eusebius] der begrenzte Kreis… refers to an earlier work by Kurtág: Der begrenzte Kreis ist rein (“The circumscribed circle is clear”) - the lyrics in the 6th piece of part III. of the Kafka Fragments (Op. 24, 1985-87). Kurtág's musical allusions are certain (The pirouettes of Conductor Kreisler are, in fact, represented by the ascending/descending tonal pattern reiterated several times by the three instruments), or they can seize a mood, as in I was a cloud, where the musical texture is indeed hazy and cloud-like.

The first five movements are reminiscent of Webern, dramatically short and resemble the epigrammatic form of the 12 microludia (1977/78) written for string quartet, but the sixth is longer than all the preceding movements together. Kurtág makes use here of another, surprising, novel musical association. The title of the work, Meister Raro entdeckt Guillaume de Machaut (Meister Raro discovers Guillaume de Machaut), as well as the movement itself, reaches back to a medieval mode of composition, the technique of the isorhythmic motet. The three players repeat fixed rhythmical patterns, independent of each other. The piano formula remains unchanged throughout, but the musical content expressed by the clarinet and the viola is “condensed”, moving in steadily decreasing steps. With the meeting of Schumann and Machaut, Kurtág seems to suggest that all things are connected. The piece is grave in character, reminiscent of a funeral march, intimating the proximity of Grabstein für Stephan (bearing an identical opus number: Op. 15/c).

Hommage a R. Sch. was recorded by the musicians who first performed it at the 1990 Contemporary Music Festival in the presence of the composer and with his approval.

Béla Bartók: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano

In a letter dated 11 August 1938, the noted violinist József Szigeti, a friend and fellow musician of Béla Bartók (1881-1945) relayed a message to the composer then living in Switzerland - a commission from Benny Goodman, the world-famous jazz clarinet player, which subsequently resulted in the score of Contrasts. Szigeti wrote: “Please write to Benny Goodman, send him a registered letter confirming your undertaking to compose a 6-7 minute duet for clarinet and violin with piano accompaniment, within a reasonable space of time, the copyright of which shall remain yours, but where you grant exclusive performance rights to Goodman for three years and undertake not to release the piece in print until the end of that period”. Szigeti gives Bartók specific tips, suggesting that he use his 1st Rhapsody for Violin, composed ten years earlier, as a model, deeming it especially fortunate that the piece comprises two movements that can be played as solos, revealing that Goodman would welcome a brilliant cadenza for clarinet and violin, and informing the composer of his instrumental skills wrote “I can at all events assure you that Benny can bring out the best of the instrument, all that the clarinet is physically capable of, and he does it beautifully”.

Though Bartók was finishing his Violin concerto at the time, he quickly jotted down this composition and the score was ready on September the 24th 1938. In accordance with the commission, he first composed two movements, and took Szigeti's advice concerning the rhapsody form: the first movement was entitled Verbunkos, and the second Sebes (Fast). The virtuoso cadenzas were also written with the clarinet playing a solo part in the opening movement and the violin in the closing one. This is how Szigeti, Goodman and Endre Petri first performed the piece in New York, on January the 9th 1939, under the temporary subtitles of Rhapsody and Two Dances. The final version also contains the slow middle movement Pihenő (Rest), which Bartók later added, although it was composed at the same time as the other two movements. Bartók himself sat at the piano for the famous recording of this latter, definitive, three-part piece (Columbia, April 1940).

In Contrasts, Bartók revives the verbunkos tradition, but in contrast to his earlier works of this kind, he composes the themes himself instead of using original folk music. Another distinctive feature of the work was brought to our attention in a lecture by József Ujfalussy (A hét zeneműve, 1974/3): “Contrasts”, he writes, “introduces a divertimento-style playfulness and grace, in major rather than using the mostly minor tonal heroic character of the original verbunkos. The same tone”, Ujfalussy continues, “is to be found in the later Divertimento, and in the opening movement of Bartók's last great work, the opening theme of the 3rd Piano Concerto”.

The clarinet is a new instrument to the oeuvre: Bartók was 57 at the time of its composition and had never before written chamber music for woodwind or brass. Beside the verbunkos themes, the piece also includes jazz-like features, obviously to please Goodman. In the opening movement, Bartók makes reference to the Blues movement of Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Piano. The first and last movements are in the rhapsody style based on verbunkos motifs, while the middle movement, Rest, is one of Bartók's night music pieces, its tonal world is eastern, Arabic.

Béla Faragó: Gregor Samsa's desires

Béla Faragó (1961) played in a number of contemporary musical ensembles, the most significant of these being Group 180, a group of composers and performers (László Melis, András Soós, Tibor Szemző etc.) he played with regularly between 1982 and 1990. His works dating from this period are mainly experimental, though later on he turned to more traditional genres and styles of expression (mass, opera).

Gregor Samsa's desires, his chamber piece for clarinet and piano (1987-91) was inspired by Franz Kafka's short story, Metamorphosis. “I bought my first volume of Kafka at the age of 15, and this attachment has lasted ever since” - says the composer. The piece is made up of four movements; its acoustic effect, melodic and harmonic world, assign it to the category of oeuvres that explore the possibilities of new tonality and simplicity. The composer is explicit in scoring the roles to be played by each instrument. The clarinet, (except for the virtuoso 3rd movement) is given a solo role and proceeds mostly in linear fashion, its melodiousness is in several instances vocally motivated. The piano creates a background, playing harmonic patches, often in resolution. In Gregor Samsa's desires, Béla Faragó, far from being averse to composing illustrative music, expressly aims at the representation of certain stages in Kafka's story and his state of mind, through the movements of the composition - as indicated by the four programme-setting movement titles: Gregor Samsa's desires; Grete and Gregor; Gregor's Dream; “Good Morning, Mr Samsa!”. Beside the acoustic effect, the formal structure also reflects musical history with the opening movement inspired by the traditional sonata form; the second one is a rondo with variation; the third is an improvisation, while in the closing movement the overriding impression is one of accelerating rhythm. The piece was written at the request of Gellért Tihanyi. The odd-numbered movements are played by the bass clarinet and the even-numbered ones by the clarinet.

Igor Stravinsky: Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet

The Story of a Soldier, Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) World War I masterpiece, could not have been performed in 1918 without the financial support of Werner Reinhart, Winterthur's generous patron of the arts. As the composer himself put it, “[Reinhart] paid everyone and everything, so much so that, finally, he even commissioned my music”. No wonder Stravinsky dedicated the piece to Reinhart and even made him a gift of the score. Reinhart however was not only a magnanimous backer of musical endeavours, he was also a skilled amateur clarinet player. In autumn 1919 Stravinsky wrote a five-movement suite variant of The Story of a Soldier, arranged for violin, clarinet and piano to please him. In the same year at Morges, he also composed a series of Three pieces for solo clarinet for Reinhart. The meditative tranquillity of the first movement (Sempre piano e molto tranquillo) is counterpointed by constant changes in the metre and by its asymmetry. The second piece, scored without bar lines and using metronome indications only, gives the listener the impression of free, wayward images, spirited rhythms, the accented character and the liveliness of the last movement evoke the acerbic tone of The Story of a Soldier. Though the first piece tends to exploit the possibilities offered by the deep register of the instrument, the second assigns equal parts of its message to its high and low ranges, the atmosphere of the finale is marked by the shrill squealing of the melody in the high register. (In the recorded piece arranged by Gellért Tihanyi, the 1st movement is played by a bass, the 2nd by a B and the closing 3rd by an F clarinet.)

Steve Reich: New York Counterpoint

Steve Reich (1936) is a prominent personality in the new American music of the decades following the appearance of John Cage. His work contributed to the invention and practice of the so-called repetitive stylistic trend in music, which, through the lengthy repetition of simple tunes and by gradual shifts and alterations of initially synchronous elements, created rich polyphonic forms. Reich composed some works of decisive importance in this respect (Music for Pieces of Wood; Drumming; Tehillim). His studies of Eastern culture and of African drum music have had a marked impact on the development of his music. He dedicated New York Counterpoint (1985) to clarinet artist Richard Stolzman. The composition, like the earlier Vermont Counterpoint, is based on the interaction of taped and live music. Its formal structure adheres to the classical three-part (fast-slow-fast) pattern; within that, metre types alternate at a rate of 1:2, i.e., 3/2; 6/4; 12/8. The Budapest premiere of New York Counterpoint was a direct result of Steve Reich meeting Tibor Szemző, a member of Group 180 in the US, who brought the piece back to Hungary. Its performance at the 1986 Contemporary Music Festival as one of the concert pieces of Group 180 was also its European premiere. Gellért Tihanyi then also performed the piece.

Kristóf Csengery
translated by Fruzsina Balkay, Eszter Molnár

Gellért Tihanyi (1953) began to study music at the age of eight. After attending the Béla Bartók Vocational Scool of Music, he graduated from the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, where he was taught by István Vécsei, Béla Kovács, György Kurtág, Albert Simon and András Pernye. He was a member of the orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera and Group 180, but he often gave concerts with the Budapest Chamber Orchestra, the Takács-Nagy and the Bartók String Quartets as well as with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.

Besides the classical pieces of clarinet literature, he regularly plays contemporary music – he has taken part in the radio and CD recordings of works by György Kurtág, Steve Reich, László Melis, and Béla Faragó (among others); all the while retaining his openness towards other genres: radio plays, film music; and he participates in the recordings of jazz and rock musicians.

As a soloist and chamber musician, he has premiered pieces by both Hungarian and international composers. He has appeared as a guest artist in England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium, Bohemia and Slovakia.

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