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Debussy and Ravel compositions in orchestrations by Zoltán Kocsis

2003. 06. 01.

Júlia Hajnóczy (soprano), National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Zoltán Kocsis
Hungaroton Classic

If anybody is, then Zoltán Kocsis is truly a musical artist in the Renaissance sense: he explores ever greater areas of his profession, and takes possession of new realms. Initially, we looked on with incomprehension, asking why as a pianist of genius, he did not devote himself exclusively to his instrument. Why was he dissipating his creative energies is so many fields: teaching, conducting, writing essays, creating concert programs, forming societies and building an orchestra – and of course, there was his composition as well. But these days, we really have to acknowledge that with Kocsis, this is not some sporting achievement, but utilising the Wagnerian term – a kind of “Gesamtkunstwerk” activity. We can analyse and criticise it – precisely as we can his pianistic productions – but to query it is certainly impermissible.
At his concerts these days, we experience increasingly frequently that during the course of a single evening, Kocsis will present two or three of his faces to the audience: as conductor, instrumental soloist and author of orchestral versions of 20th century masterpieces. Alas, we can still not hope to find in the shops his CD of superb Bartók orchestrations, since the wrangling over copyright questions remains unresolved. However, his recording of Debussy and Ravel compositions for the Hungaroton firm is now available, and we have every reason to presume that when it is distributed abroad it will create a sensation. The seventy minutes-worth of compositions on this CD are not espied as part of the chamber music treasury, but with Kocsis's co-operation as a co-author, have now written their names into the golden pages of the orchestral literature. It is my firm conviction that Kocsis's orchestration of, for example, the Debussy cycle of Verlaine verses (Ariettes Oubliées) is no less important an event than when Ravel launched the international career of Mussorgsky's piano composition Pictures at an Exhibition through his congenial orchestration. After all, the Ariettes Oubliées are exceptionally beautiful, secretive and enchanting works, which in their original form – probably because of the extreme demands of the piano accompaniment – are only heard tucked away at chamber music recitals. Now however, in the performance of the sensuous soprano voice (Júlia Hajnóczy), full of suggestivity, vibrancy and tension, sensuously entwining itself with the transparent texture of the orchestral accompaniment, we encounter them as a revelation and hope that orchestral ensembles intending to expand their Debussy repertoire will seize upon them. The disarming achievement of the National Philharmonic Orchestra communicates itself as joyous music making; in this song cycle, in the Ravel original works and those that Kocsis arranges, and in the Debussy works that Kocsis orchestrates: Marché Écossaise, Danse, Images (Oubliées). Kocsis also takes into hand some Ravel works: besides the Menuet Antique, Kocsis's most astounding orchestrating bravura is reserved for his reworking for orchestra of those movements from Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin, which the composer himself did not attempt to rewrite. At first glance, this seems like astounding daring, but listening to the end result, I can only say that it makes for an imposing co-production.

Mária Kerényi
(Gramofon, Summer 2003)  

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