The Palace was more than four hundred years old and had served its purpose; it would be unbecoming to despise it for showing its age. But there was now one spot within it of something new. Turn your thought to it for a moment. One incongruous new idea amid a marsh of stagnant facts. — Steven Brust’s Brokedown Palace
Summer by the calendar is almost upon us, but I prefer the weather wise folk who say it is thirty days or so depending on the year earlier as it nicely fits what we get here on this Scottish estate. Indeed it’s been warm enough overnight that I’ve had the windows here in the Pub open ’round the clock. Gus our Estate Gardener and Groundskeeper has followed the lead of those who held that position before him and planted lupins in the flower beds near Kinrowan Hall, so their pepperary smell is in here and quite noticable.
If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the sounds of some Hungarian music being by our Librarian in the Kitchen as I do believe that’s where he is judging from the voices I hear along with his playing…
Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’
He says about Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy that it ‘has been in my peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!
We start off our music reviews (which somehow seem to have a very Eastern European slant to them) with Donna’s look at a collaboration between Taraf de Haïdouks and Kočani Orkestar, Band of Gypsies 2: ‘Band of Gypsies 2 marks a very exciting collaboration between two of Europe’s most popular Gypsy bands. The fourteen members of Taraf de Haïdouks hail from a region in Romania where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion and the language derives from so-called Vulgar Latin. They play primarily violins and accordions. The thirteen members of Kočani Orkestar come from the Republic of Macedonia, are Muslim, and speak a Slavic language. They play primarily brass instruments, trumpets and tubas. Put all these men and their instruments together and you have a real wall of sound!’
Next, Gary brings us a live recording from Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen, Live at Liszt Academy: ‘This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’
Robert has a look at some chamber music by a couple of Hungary’s lesser-known composers, in the Guarneri Quartet’s Hungarian Album: ‘ Looking at the Quartet’s discography, one is struck by their focus on music of the twentieth century and of Eastern Europe: Bartók, Dvorák, Janáček, Debussy, Grieg, Smetana are all well-represented in their recordings, so this group of quartets by Dohnányi and Kodály is a good fit — although sadly, it marks the group’s retirement.’
Finally, Robert takes a look at another Hungarian composer who became a mainstay of the Romantic era, Franz Liszt, in a recording of his more notable works for piano: ‘Franz Liszt was another of those nineteenth-century child prodigies, which may explain something very odd: because his family’s financial circumstances dictated that he begin concert tours at a very early age (sort of a musical variation on a classic rags-to-riches story), his musical education was somewhat truncated. Thus, when he began composing music, he had to go back and learn how. . . .’
Our What Not this outing is a rumination by Jennifer Stevenson on Summer: ‘This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.’
And for our finale today, another work from Franz Liszt that shows just how Hungarian he could be. Not exactly what I heard Iain playing earlier, but this will give us a rousing finish, thanks to Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica: it’s not every classical pianist who gives a concert in a sleeveless tunic and leather wrist bands.