The oboe was a special instrument for Bruno Maderna, and he filled these three concertos (composed in 1962-3, 1967 and 1973) with solo lines in which sharply fragmented and fluently rhapsodic materials constantly interact. Heinz Holliger, in turn, pours all his unrivalled dexterity and capacity for infinitely varied expressive nuance into the performances here. Yet the music remains problematic.
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.
Hungarian-born Sándor Veress (1907-1992) is a sadly neglected figure in modern music. Despite his pupilage under Bela Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and even his succession over the latter as professor of composition at the Budapest School of Music in 1943, Veress has never attained the same international recognition as his two most successful compatriots. One might blame his preference for solitude or his idiomatic methodology for keeping him in obscurity. Yet as one who made the most of his outlier status and ideological exile, he seems never to have been one to wallow in self-pity. Exposed to much of the folk music that also captivated his mentors, Veress nurtured that same spirit when sociopolitical upheaval exacerbated his emigration to Switzlerland in 1949. Whereas Kodály in particular saw cultural preservation as central to the musical act, Veress saw it as an incision to be teased open and unraveled.
A cheerful little record, this, of three lightweight works played most exquisitely by very distinguished artists. In fact I am not sure that the chief distinction doesn't emanate from the orchestra: it is a while, as it happens, since I have heard the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and they seem to be playing here better than ever—sweet string tone, pure intonation, finely moulded phrasing, impeccably precise ensemble. Of the three works, the Cimarosa, written for two flutes (in which form it has several times been recorded), is the most attractive for its fluency, its melodiousness (the finale is a real charmer) and its elegant musical form; the Salieri seems by comparison rather carefully devised, though of course it has plenty of entertaining music. Carl Stamitz's piece takes itself more seriously, trying to be symphonic and taking less trouble about being tuneful—though the warm, galant slow movement makes very pleasing listening. The recorded sound is clear and true. (Stanley Sadie, Gramophone)