The Twenty-one Hungarian Dances in four books, for piano four hands, attracted enormous attention since their first publication under Simrock. They are realized upon two musical inclinations of the 19th century: dance-style pieces written for piano four-hands and compositions inspired by Europe’s assorted cultures. Good examples from other authors could be Haydn’s and Beethoven’s Schottische Lieder, Schubert’s unique Divertissement à l’hongroise, the Slavonic Dances by Dvořák, and the Norwegian Dances by Grieg. Melodies of the Roma people hold a special place in this kind of composition -if not specifically Hungarian, at least strongly identified with that nation-, and contributed significantly to cultures in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. The European “Gypsy mode” in instrumental music is nothing more than a blending of Hungarian musical gestures and Gypsy performing style. Brahms, as well as Liszt, paved the way for a new romantic kind of pseudo-Gypsy music with the substantial difference that the latter was a Hungarian born composer that absorbed more dramatically the folk music of his motherland.
Brahms was surely not gipsy and much less Hungarian. He was born in Hamburg, and this city was, of course, a world away from Hungary, which formed part of the Hapsburg Empire. When Hungarian political refugees on their way to the USA passed through Hamburg after the suppression of the revolutions of 1848, Brahms was exposed to the style hongrois. The first meeting with Hungarian music happened at the beginning of his career thanks to Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, whom Brahms had heard in concert in 1850 at age 17. In 1853, three years later, Brahms served as Reményi’s accompanist, touring together with him and deepening knowledge in Hungarian gipsy melodies. In the same year, he met for the first time Robert Schumann and his fascination with this musical idiom grew up and led him to write a set of variations on a Hungarian theme. In many other works it is possible to recognize this interest: in the Finale of his Violin Concerto, in the Gypsy Songs for vocal quartet and piano (1887) as well as in the fourth movement of Piano Quartet in G Minor No. 1 Op.25. On his path, he met another influent Hungarian violinist, Joseph Joachim, perhaps the most celebrated violin virtuoso of the day, becoming friends and musical collaborators soon. In this cd, it is presented the original version for piano four hands, published as two batches in 1869 (numbers 1-10) and 1880 (11-21). In general, the later sets have more of Brahms than of Hungary, and, perhaps consequently, were slightly less popular. Brahms knew well there would be a ready-made audience and they were considerably successful at the time indeed. The piano four hands version were countlessly arranged for different instruments, different groupings, and by many musicians. Seen in this light, the piano duet produced a valuable element in domestic enjoyment as well as serving a more professional purpose for later orchestra transcriptions. It is interesting to note that Brahms refused for all his life to take full credit for the melodies, he referred to them merely as arrangements. Despite his constant interest in Hungarian gipsy music, he failed to distinguish the gipsy from the Magyar correctly. All Dances are somewhat far from their original Magyar folk, and Gipsy forms and only numbers 11, 14, and 16 seem to be entirely original pieces. Almost all the pieces show the lifelong fascination by Brahms for irregular rhythms – as the fourth dance change tempo midway – triplet figures and use of rubato common to this style, they are all characterized by sudden contrasts between straitjacket and explosive energy. The two original groups of pieces have somewhat distinct characters: livelier the first and more concentrated in the melancholy aspects of Hungarian music the second. Most of the dances are rapid, full of exuberances and in some cases, as in the famous fifth dance, even after a mercurial tempo, it becomes even more frenzied. No wonder that Wagner, probably with the Hungarian Dances in his mind, wrote with harshness: “I know famous composers that you can meet at concert masquerades, one day in the guise of a ballad singer, the next in Handel’s Hallelujah wig, another time as a Jewish csardas player, and then again as genuine symphonists dressed up as number ten.”
(Album Notes by Edmondo Filippini)
Frisch, Walter, and Kevin C. Karnes, editors. Brahms and His World: (Revised Edition). Princeton University Press, 2009.
Bellman, J. (1991). Toward a Lexicon for the Style hongrois. The Journal of Musicology, 9(2), 214-237.
David Boldrini: Italian pianist, organist, composer, and conductor. He graduated with honors from “L. Cherubini” Conservatory of Florence in piano, organ, and organ composition. He has perfected his technique thanks to studies conducted under Bruno Canino, Vincenzo Balzani, Paul Badura Skoda, and Pier Narciso Masi, winning more than fifty national and international competitions. Boldrini started his career as an accompanist, working with Katia Ricciarelli, Andrea Bocelli, Maria Luigi Borsi, Bruno Canino, and Franco Mezzena. In the meantime, he collaborated with several orchestras as a soloist. These include Bacau Orchestra, Craiova Orchestra, Formazione Maggio Musicale Orchestra, Lyrical-symphonic Orchestra of the Giglio Theatre (Lucca), Viotti Chamber Orchestra, Uanl Orchestra (Monterrey), Baskent University Orchestra of Ankara. Boldrini toured all over the world, performing in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall (New York), the CRR Concert Hall in Istanbul, Roman Philarmonic at the Casella Hall, Chiasso Theatre, Kioko Hall (Tokyo), Kunstlerhaus (Monaco), Ferruccio Busoni Centre (Empoli), and the Schloss Ribbek Festival (Berlin). In his career, he has been accompanist and conductor in many operas, performing in various festivals and concert seasons. Artistic Director of the Italian Opera Theatre of Florence, he has an intimate knowledge of the repertoire of opera. Appreciated composer, he recently published his first original Opera recently, "L’Amante" (Da Vinci Publishing.) Amadeus, Wide Classique, and Brilliant Classics released some of his recent CDs.
Manila Santini: Described as a musician that combines a fiery temperament and a solid technique with extraordinary sensitivity and a charismatic stage presence. Praised by the audience for her expressive force and brilliant virtuosism she has gained critical acclaim for her natural and elegant phrasing, her great sense of melody, together with a warm fullness of sound. She has performed in some of the most prestigious European Concert Halls including the Wiener Saal of the Mozarteum (Salzburg), De Doelen Juriaanse Saal (Rotterdam), Salone de' Cinquecento of Palazzo Vecchio (Florence), Salle Gothique de L’hotel de Ville (Brussels), Paganini Auditorium (Parma), Teatro Regio (Parma). She has also appeared at numerous Music Festivals such as the Festival Gergiev and the Operadagen in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), the Ravenna Festival (Italy), the Festival Verdi 2010 and 2012 in Parma (Italy). After graduating summa cum laude at the Pescara Conservatory, she continued her musical training with professors Roberto Cappello, Aquiles Delle Vigne, Alfredo Speranza, and Pier Narciso Masi. She obtained a Master’s Degree at the Hoogeschool voor Muziek an Dans in Rotterdam and at the Parma Conservatory. From an early age, she was awarded in numerous national and international piano competitions. A devoted Chamber musician, Manila collaborated with such artists as Francesco Manara, Simonide Braconi, Fabrizio Meloni and Alessandro Serra, concertmaster, principal violist, principal clarinet and principal double-bass at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Emmanuele Baldini, and saxophonists Mario Marzi and Federico Mondelci. She also has an intense concert activity of piano duo, performing Liszt's transcription for two pianos of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana for soloists, choir, two pianos, and percussion.
Johannes Brahms: (b Hamburg, 7 May 1833; d Vienna, 3 April 1897). German composer. The successor to Beethoven and Schubert in the larger forms of chamber and orchestral music, to Schubert and Schumann in the miniature forms of piano pieces and songs, and to the Renaissance and Baroque polyphonists in choral music, Brahms creatively synthesized the practices of three centuries with folk and dance idioms and with the language of mid- and late 19th-century art music. His works of controlled passion, deemed reactionary and epigonal by some, progressive by others, became well accepted in his lifetime.