The Rambler :: blog

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rudolf Maros: Eufonia, Eufonia 2, Eufonia 3, Five studies for orchestra 

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Hungaroton/Qualiton LPX 11362

So far this is the earliest of the Hungaroton LPs I own and dates, I think, from around 1970 (earlier Hungaroton records weren't printed with dates of release). The recording I own was packaged in a French box set 'Jeune musisique hongroise', but this is really no more than an external repackage to three records that were already available. It's also worth noting that there is a much more recent CD release of Eufonias 1–3 available through Hungaroton these days [adds to wishlist], which might be worth hunting down.

Maros was born in 1917, and was an important teacher at the Budapest Academy of Music; as a composer, his career and style went through a number of distinct phases. Like most of his contemporaries in the 1940s and 50s, he composed music that was heavily influenced by the Bartók- and Kodály-inspired use of Hungarian folk music, and there are moments in the Five studies (1960) which – although not at all folky – do resemble bits of 1940s Bartók. However, in the 1960s Maros introduced more avant-garde and experimental elements into his music: his later works frequently employ 12-note serialism, for example. For a time, Maros occupied similar territory to his expatriate Hungarian colleague, Ligeti, and the Polish sonorists, writing in a style that placed primary emphasis on the interaction of timbre over melody, harmony and rhythm. Listening to Euphonia 1, for example, it's impossible to believe that Maros hadn't heard Ligeti's Atmosphères or Penderecki's Threnody. The three Eufonias for orchestra, written in 1963, 64 and 65, are his most important works in this style. They're quite surprising works, because this sort of timbral composition was generally considered the preserve of the Polish avant garde; a great deal of Hungarian music in the early 1960s, and certainly most of what was finding its way to the UK, is comparatively unadventurous. Maros is also a relatively senior figure – older than both Ligeti and Kurtág for example, as well as many of the Polish generation of Górecki and Penderecki& ndash; and with his greater experience he was able to bring some compositional maturity to his works. This results in varied and imaginative approaches to sound and orchestration, but a steady eye on his responsibilities to form and pacing; unfortunately, some of the risks of the Polish timbral composers are flattened out, and Maros can't help using more or less conventional gestures to help shape his works – the long orchestral crescendo that closes Eufonia 3, or the timpani roll used to round off a cluster chord in Eufonia 1. The vocabulary might be up-to-minute 1960s, but the rhetoric can't quite get away from the 18th/19th century; it's a misfitting that I find in a lot of post-Stalin Eastern bloc music, borne of a genuine conflict of identity, of being assured in how to use one particular set of tools, but no longer confident of their place.

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