Trio Lignum (Csaba Klenyán, Lajos Rozmán, György Lakatos) Trialog (Ockeghem, Serei, Sári, Tallis/Kondor)

BMCCD127 2008

This Trio Lignum disc features four pieces. Of the four musical surfaces, the two outer ‘movements’ are what is known as early music. (One might well ask to what extent a work created in the fifteenth century is early compared to, for instance, the music of the singers and harpists depicted with shells embedded in lapis lazuli in the peace side of the Standard of Ur, from five thousand years ago...) The two inner ‘movements’ are contemporary music.

From this bold, so-to-say, classically courageous composition it follows that we hear not only four works of music, in whatever order we please, but we encounter a new artefact, a new musical composition, a kind of ideal concert. The disc obviously thus records a musical event never yet heard.

György Jovánovics


Trio Lignum:
Csaba Klenyán - clarinet (Selmer instrument)
Lajos Rozmán - clarinet (L. Rossi instrument)
György Lakatos - bassoon (Heckel No. 8492)

Ildikó Vékony - cimbalom (8)

About the album

Recorded at Hungaroton Studio, Budapest, tracks 6-8 October 2006, tracks 1-5 April 2007
Recording producer: András Wilheim
Recorded, mixed and edited by János Győri

Portrait photo: István Huszti
Cover Art-Smart by GABMER / Bachman

Produced by László Gőz
Executive producer: Tamás Bognár

The recording was sponsored by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary and the Artisjus Music Foundation


Glyn Pursglove - MusicWeb (en)

Dr. Matthias Lange - (de)

Dariusz Mazurowski - Muzyka21 **** (pl)

Veres Bálint - Gramofon **** (hu)

Végső Zoltán - Revizor (hu)

Bali Cecília - Café Momus (hu)

Galamb Zoltán - (hu)

3500 HUF 11 EUR

J. Ockeghem: Missa Sine Nomine

01 Kyrie 2:36
02 Gloria 5:21
03 Credo 7:32
04 Sanctus 7:34
05 Agnus Dei 4:31

Zsolt Serei:

06 Dream drawings 15:02

József Sári:

07 Trialog 9:47

T. Tallis (arranged by Ádám Kondor):

08 Felix namque 9:43
Total time 62:06

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

notes musicales en français - cliquez ici

For the TRIO LIGNUM recording...

MUSIC is immensely vulnerable physically. Music sounds and passes away. Paper and ink are not music (to us lay people they are merely GRAPHICS, albeit beautiful graphics). It’s no use the initiated telling us they can hear it. For us lay people, music is not ready-made. In the moment before and after IT IS PLAYED, when IT SOUNDS, it does not in actual fact exist. To us the graphics are just a possibility; someone, the MUSICIANS, the initiated, will play them – to us, and several times. Thus of all the arts MUSIC is the avant-garde art par excellence: IT IS ALWAYS NEW, NEVER FINISHED; MUSIC HAPPENS RIGHT NOW! Together with this goes the fact that MUSIC is not finished in the sense that the same music is slightly different when played again (a second time, an umpteenth time...).

Strictly speaking, MUSIC is ONLY FINISHED (only then is it MUSIC), when it actually SOUNDS. Hungarian expresses this very clearly: EL-HANGZIK (to ‘sound away’, expressing music’s ephemeral nature). And that is just it. Music SOUNDS in a given moment, and in that same moment it has SOUNDED AWAY.

The music of centuries, millennia, tens of thousands of years has ‘sounded away’ without trace. With the exception of the last five hundred years we have even lost all graphical trace of it. We have lost the essence, the sound, irrevocably. We are left with the mere a priori certainty that music has always existed, that people made music when they spoke, painted, sculpted and built. Much has been left of these more fortunate media, and can be enjoyed today.

In images from thousands of years ago, we see people making music, singing, holding a lute or pipe, though unfortunately we do not hear them.
Art testifies to the image of music, but not to its sound.
Relatively reliable musical graphics – in other words, sheet music – is extant from the time when one of the finest painted depictions of music was made. These are confidently played today. (And fortunately, for some time, what has been played stays with us. The technical ability to record and copy music is one of the most fruitful achievements of modern culture.)

Johannes Ockeghem, one of whose masses is the first work on the Trio Lignum disc, must have been a child of six or seven when in the church of St Bavo in Ghent on 6 May 1432 one of the most wonderful artistic creations of all time was inaugurated. Hubert van Eyck won the commission and started the work, but died unexpectedly, and after many long years his brilliant brother Jan finished it on the date mentioned above. In the brothers’ concept, on the physically vast altarpiece, consisting of countless tableaux, paradise is depicted by music. They did not depict music, but rather the kingdom of heaven – through music. What could possibly be a way into the divine world? Music itself. It is impossible to imagine a testimony of greater flattery and honour. On the inner left side of the altar (above), sings a choir of angels, while on the right angels play the organ and other instruments. In the background of both pictures is a crystal clear blue sky. Naturally, there are no clouds in heaven.

Both the work and the author enjoyed phenomenal fame. Jan van Eyck died in 1441. As far as we know, Ockeghem became a member of the choir at Antwerp two years later, at the age of 18. It doesn’t take much historical research for us to be sure that the young singer would certainly have admired the Ghent altarpiece, if he hadn’t already seen it, because the 50 kilometres between Antwerp and Ghent was no great distance even then. In addition, there were no concert halls at the time, and churches were the venue for public music-making. It is inconceivable that the Antwerp choir would not have performed in the church in which music, as it were, goes to heaven.

This Trio Lignum disc features four pieces. Of the four musical surfaces, the two outer ‘movements’ are what is known as early music. (One might well ask to what extent a work created in the fifteenth century is early compared to, for instance, the music of the singers and harpists depicted with shells embedded in lapis lazuli in the peace side of the Standard of Ur, from five thousand years ago...) The two inner ‘movements’ are contemporary music.

From this bold, so-to-say, classically courageous composition it follows that we hear not only four works of music, in whatever order we please, but we encounter a new artefact, a new musical composition, a kind of ideal concert. The disc obviously thus records a musical event never yet heard.

Johannes Ockeghem’s (c. 1426-1495) Missa sine nomine is a classic mass, with the obligatory five parts – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus dei – but naturally in a purely instrumental version. This pure Renaissance music is far removed from the mood-painting solutions of all later eras. It is uniform, monochrome, abstract music; it knows no stress nor pain, and thus neither beginning nor end. This music consists of two pure but opposite elements of the universe: a perfect alloy of algebra and melancholy.

And yet (a minor, peculiar twist to the version performed here), all five movements begin in almost exactly the same manner in the texture created by the three instruments, though the second and third parts are preceded by an amazingly intoned ‘flyleaf’ from the bassoon (the bass, rather than the tenor usual at that time!). The bassoon, as it were, illuminates an initial, before the three play together again. The controls of a modern CD player enable us to hear the beginning of the two movements together. It’s an interesting experience. We seem to hear the bassoon singing: “Gloria in excelsis Deo – Credo in unum deum”. In the performance, however, there is a five-minute instrumental interlude (the entire second movement) between the two sentences.

Zsolt Serei’s trio Dream Drawings gives exactly what the title promises: dream drawings. One is amazed at how accessible this topic is to music, yet how few examples of it there are. Why? ... Hardly any, not counting Romanticism. (According to Serei there are similar works by Lutoslawski and by Cage.) I cannot imagine how I would react to and interpret this music if it had another title. But it doesn’t! And as a listener one immediately gives one’s attention willingly, with even greater inner calm, if possible, than customary for listening to music. We take it seriously, as the composer leads us to the very depths of night. The structure of this dream is varied and complex, yet clear. For eight of the 15 minutes of the piece, the first clarinet represents definitively and almost aggressively, the dreaming ego. The line the dream follows is a broken series of structured diagrams. But then dramatic changes take place in the dream-music process. The leading instrument fades out and becomes distant. That’s what I thought I heard... But according to Serei it approaches from another distant point. At any rate, the instruments are separated by a concrete, audible, real distance. Weighted silences and emphatic, prolonged notes follow, full of impending doom. The dream reorders itself; the bassoon’s role is increasingly important, but rather than the structure diagrams of the dream this instrument plays a succession of wisps of melody.

After three-quarters of an hour tense attention (exhausting even in sleep) a sharp whistle awakens us. That is how József Sári’s work Trialogue begins, bringing pleasant relief after unsurpassable analytical solemnity. This music contains humour, and even the grotesque. It begins at breakneck tempo, and we cannot rid ourselves of the idea that we are on a train – these are familiar associations. In the spirit of the grotesque and of the wake-up call, around bar 20 we seem to hear a cock crowing. The tempo slackens for a short while. In the trialogue all three parts are strictly equal: there is no solo, no monologue, and no question without an immediate answer. I suspect all three instruments play exactly the same number of notes, and that all three players use the same amount of air. The conclusion is breathtaking; there is no winner or loser in this argument. If indeed we were on a train, then we have arrived.

Thomas Tallis: Felix namque (transcribed by Ádám Kondor)
The fourth and last opus on this disc is a surprise. A gift – a pure music of joy. The moment when at the point of some imaginary golden section, at the end of the fourth bar the cimbalom is heard, is unsurpassably beautiful. What a musically and humanly uplifting experience to hear the ensemble playing of the three men at the height of their creative powers, and the committed, fragile woman; to hear how the sound of the three wind instruments becomes fertile and complete through the drawing in of a fourth instrument.

This music is an ideal match to the psychological-emotional space of all the material on the disc. As if the awakening (from dreams) starts in a melancholy medium. Yet this melancholy is not the cosmic melancholy of Ockeghem, but rather a feeling of this world, like the postlude of some recently experienced collective communal mourning, though only eight bars long.

As the cimbalom strikes the first note we experience the rebirth of the community, as a placid celebration free of all brazenness. A splendid alternation of colours and rhythms, a round robin of short solos and ensembles, the quiet, restrained euphoria of the birth of joy, nuanced with inexhaustible ideas.

György Jovánovics

Johannes Ockeghem: Missa sine nomine

In regard to this masterpiece, I feel it rather distasteful to raise the question of authenticity. Even if Ockeghem did not write it, the work is fantastic: a pleasure and an experience to hear and to know. It may be that thorough research will unearth a composer to whose oeuvre can be added this three-voice Missa sine nomine; but if it were one day to happen, it would be no less than the identification of a sixteenth-century composer of hardly lower rank than Ockeghem. And historical data show, of course, there were hardly any – posterity would not have forgotten them.

As regards the puritanism of those who espouse the cause of ‘authentic’ performance: the interpretation played here is not a transcription. Every note is the equivalent of a note in the original; there are no changes, interventions, cuts or substitutions. All that transpires from this performance is that any sounding device is suitable to conjure up Ockeghem’s (or any pseudo-Ockeghem’s) music; of course different difficulties arise in the work’s instrumental and vocal performances – but perhaps other aspects of it are thrown into relief, too. And it prompts us to greater concentration; at least in the sense that it forces us to observe the events taking place in the notes; it does not give the prop of the text, of custom, the accepted medium of this type of music. In return, as in all great music, we are left with just the notes, and the relations between them. In other words, what was most important to the composer while at work – indeed, perhaps that alone was important.

András Wilheim

Zsolt Serei: Dream Drawings

Dream Drawings was written in 2004, for the Trio Lignum. During the piece the three instruments follow three different paths. The three different behaviours are: stable-directing, the soloist in the foreground, and the hesitating, commentating background. Their musical material continually changes, and imperceptibly they take on one another’s roles.

Zsolt Serei

József Sári: Trialogue

Some time at the beginning of the twentieth century at a Schoenberg premiere a lady congratulated the composer, but also made a remark she intended to be critical: her objection was that she had not found the piece played to be beautiful. Allegedly, the composer replied that for a long time already the question had not been whether something is beautiful, but whether it is true...

Undoubtedly, beauty and truth are real, valid concepts as regards artistic creation. But showing how they are manifested is a mighty complex task. There are, after all, no criteria whose presence would show beyond doubt that a work is beautiful, or true...

Is it at all possible for something to be ‘just’ true, without beauty, or ‘just’ beautiful, without the work’s being true? The answer is deep down inside us and depends on our taste, culture, our specialist knowledge and so forth. Perhaps we can get practically closer to the answers if we remember that the harmony of the proportions of the work exercises a beneficial effect on our sense of beauty, while its relationship to the zeitgeist seems to be important as regards the truth of the work...

In writing my composition Trialogue I tried to keep in mind both aspects to the utmost, giving them equal weight. Thus came into being the form composed of three large parts, of which the middle part is a uniform section, acting almost as a slow movement (in which my endeavour to conjure up beauty dominates) while the two outer parts are divided into several sections such that in the third large section can be found the musical ideas of the first section, and their variants to a greater or lesser degree.

From a performer’s point of view the work is technically, musically and rhythmically highly demanding, but the effect is cheering. The members of the Trio Lignum are the ideal performers of this piece, and it is dedicated to them.

József Sári

Thomas Tallis: Felix namque (transcribed by Ádám Kondor)

Some recordings are less the models of an authentic performance of the works than the documents of the encounter between great performing personalities, like for instance the Cortot–Thibaud–Casals Schubert B flat major Trio. I have presumed that from the collaboration between Trio Lignum and Ildikó Vékony some similarly special quality might be born. Thomas Tallis’s large-scale composition promised to be a sufficiently inspiring medium for this. Although the series of variations Felix namque is extant in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, the long-held chords at the end of the movement would seem to indicate that Tallis originally intended the work for the organ rather than the virginal. This transcription provides a peculiar mixture of the two types of sound: the clarinets can be interpreted as an imitation of the organ, and the cimbalom conjures up the world of plucked keyboard instruments. Instrumentation is always criminal intervention in the life of a piece, but perhaps this can be overlooked in the enchanting delight of the performance…

Ádám Kondor
Translated by Richard Robinson

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