<< -- 2 -- Malcolm Miller MAGYAR MAGIC
Two unfamiliar nineteenth century works, by the French Bellon and Russian Ewald (the ensemble's name) ensued. Bellon's Quintet No 4, receiving a UK première, is one of twelve published around 1850, showing tuneful yet somewhat quirky idiom, with plenty of dialogue amongst the instruments, and slinky syncopations. Mellow tuba and trombone solos in the second and third movements were smoothly blended with accompanying textures carried by the higher brass, and the rondo finale had a charming buoyancy. Victor Ewald's Quintet published in 1912 displayed a more intense idiom. Ewald was a cellist in the string quartet of the St Petersburg salons of Belayev, attended by late-Russian Romantics such as Liadov and Glazunov, whose influence could be traced in the harmonies and sequences of this work, with stunning virtuoso delicacy in the tripartite finale Vivo.
The ensemble's brilliance and panache emerged more keenly in the scintillating Music Hall Suite by Joseph Horovitz, well known for his many works for brass and wind, who was present to acknowledge the warm audience applause. This early work, from 1964, combines appealing melodies and punchy cabaret style elements, summoned up by the Ewald with freshness and ebullience. Especially telling were the colourful blends in 'Soubrette Song', with brightly resonant trumpets, the flickering fluidity of 'Trick cyclists', and the eloquent theme of the 'Adagio Team', etched over smooth sustained harmonies. Almost ragtime-like was the slinky 'Soft Shoe Shuffle' with its witty tuba links and the rollicking burlesque of 'Les Girls'.
Particularly pithy were the three short pieces from Further Eight Arrogant Ideas by Kamilló Lendvay (born 1928), with interesting sonorities in the brief 'Intrada', warm depth in the slow dense 'Tango' and a challenging technique displayed in the 'Summary', with its propulsive textures. To conclude was the 'Hexen-Galop' by László Durovay (born 1943), drawing on such unusual effects as whistling and singing down the instrument, and all manner of mutes and vibrato, to lend a suitably eerie character to this movement, which also functions as the finale of Durovay's Quintet No 3. Both these Hungarian works whetted one's appetite to hear more by these composers, and highlighted the inventiveness of the progressive streams in Hungarian new music, much of which is on offer in the three remaining concerts of the series, not to mention the enriching year-long festival ahead. With its distinctively appealing image the Ewald Quintet is an ensemble well worth hearing, and one hopes for more performances here soon.