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Capricious Monti’s Czardas by Vengerov

November 26, 2008

Czardas, or Csárdás, is a traditional Hungarian folk dance. Its music is characterized by a variation in tempo: slow and then fast. There are many classical music composers who used csárdás themes in their work, such as Liszt, Brahms, Sarasate and Tchaikovsky etc. Probably the best known version is the one composed by Vittorio Monti, who wrote it for violin and piano in 1904 (himself was also a violinist).

Yesterday, in Performance Today I heard the version played by violinist Maxim Vengerov with Virtuosi and pianist Vag Papian. Wow, that is the most — how should I put it — exaggerating sentimental version I have ever heard. That piece starts around 6:00 of the Part I of the program (streaming audio available for a short while), or you can listen to the one I recorded from the steaming audio. It is a live recording in Musikverein, Vienna, Austria in 2001.

Maxim Vengerov and Virtuosi worked together on a CD album in 2001, which became a hit that year, and they have been on tour together several times.

My vision of Vergerov’s performances was still in the late 90s. Listened to few of his CDs only. However, once when I visited Seattle, wondering on the street by myself, I walked into a bookstore (Border?) and picked up a CD by Itzhak Perlman for test listening. The first track I listened to was Polonaise No. 1 Op. 4 by Wieniawski. I was overwhelmed by the music. I stood there, listened to it several times, and finally made myself leave. I didn’t buy the CD at that time though. When I was back, I checked it out in the library but only got the version in “Virtuoso Vengerov” CD. It’s not the same as what Perlman did to me. 😕

Back to Mont’s Czardas. Vengerov’s playing is stunning; no double about that. It can be really slow at some point and really fast at another time. Pretty melodramatic and full of entertainment. No wonder that the audience applauded just after Vengerov’s first show-off around 1 min. 😐

I also recorded a clip from Performance Today some time ago. This Czardas was played by Caroline Goulding, 13 at that time, in Aspen Music Festival in 2006 (I forgot the name of the pianist). See which one you like.

You can find similar clips by Vegerov & Virtuosi in YouTube. For instance, this one with Bassiona Amorosa:

Playing double bass like Roman Patkoló is really amazing.


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