A countryman of Bela Bartók and a sometime teacher to both György Ligeti and György Kurtág, Sándor Veress emigrated to Switzerland from what was then part of Hungary in 1949. Settling in Bern, he collected various prizes and teaching posts while working in relative obscurity on who knows how many pieces–most of which have been unavailable. This collection is made up of a pithy trio of compositions dated 1938 (Six Csárdás), 1951 (Hommage à Paul Klee), and 1952 (Concerto for Piano, Strings, and Percussion), and they show what a deftly melodic force Veress was. He's thrilled by blustery string wafts, especially in the concerto, where the percussion adds drama and immediacy. But he also favors sweetly chipper string formations, which surprise the ear during the homage to Klee, especially given the dissonances fostered early on by the twin pianos. The closing piano miniatures of Six Csárdás are counterpoint-rich gems, played with sharp precision by András Schiff.
There was nothing like the Robeson sound, ever. To describe his deep, rich, perfectly equalized instrument is futile. Go instead to "Balm in Gilead," the opening track, and see if you can listen to the last pianissimo phrase without falling to pieces. Robeson was at his best when the music was slow and the words contained spiritual or social messages. Faster, lighter fare like Kern's "I Still Suits Me" or Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" find the serious-minded singer out of his element, lacking irony and swing. "Old Man River," though, gets a simple, dignified treatment. It's Songs of Free Men, though, that will just keep Robeson's artistry rolling along, especially in Sony's astonishing transfers.