"SPLINTERS" - Mariann Marczi


Pianist Mariann Marczi performs a very personal
program of 20th century works from her native
Hungary, featuring works that form two pillars at either
ends of the last century, grouped between 1907 and
1918 and from 1976 to 1989. Like pylons, these two
blocks of compositional styles and techniques are
linked by a hidden and complex network of bridges -
arpeggios that at times imitate the sounds of the harp, dulcimer or far-away bells, a strong French influence, be it biographical, musical and frequent references to francophone poetry, and a common tendency towards the transcendental. Mariann has worked together with all of the living composers on her disc, and authoritatively carries out their intentions, while bringing to light the subtle nuances across the interesting and varied landscape of last century’s Hungarian music.

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Reviews:

“The opening of György Kurtág’s Splinters sounds like the tuner has arrived and is giving your piano a workover. Then the second phrase chimes in and you realise that you have never listened properly to a piano before.

In one minute and seven seconds a Hungarian composer takes off both your ears, gives them a rinse and polish, and leaves them half a tone sharper than before. This is a specialist service offered only by Hungarian composers and their interpreters. Few perform it better than Mariann Marczi, a teacher at Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy.

She follows austere Kurtág with an extended aphorism of György Ligeti’s and a meditation by Zoltán Kodály, best known for exotic orchestral overtures but here measuring out each note like Bluebeard enumerating wives. An autumnal reflection by Laszlo Lajtha yearns for a Paris boulevard, while three Béla Bartók burlesques threaten to tip the piano totally off its casters. Two living composers, Zoltan Jeney and Gyula Csapó, round off an original album without a single superfluous note. Solo piano in Hungarian is a world unto itself, a world apart.”

SinfiniMusic Norman Lebrecht Album of the Week December 2, 2013

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“Each note, each pause in her playing is mature, and nothing happens by chance. The sobbing of Kodály's Székely keserves is moving, the sarcastic humor of Bartók's second burlesque is diverting; we can admire the cold twinkling of Ligeti's etude Fém (Metal), and the pulsating, revitalizing nature of the pauses in Jeney's Arthur Rimbaud in the Desert.”

5 STARS - Gramofon Ilona Kovács December 2013

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“Mariann Marczi cites a 1905 meeting of Bartók and Kodály as the most significant in Hungarian musical history, leading to the two composers deciding to study the country's folk music and turn their backs on the Austro-German tradition. And you can hear that something's afoot in Kodály's beautiful 1907 Meditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy; limpid music full of air, grace and colour. More characteristic are the Seven Piano Pieces composed over the following decade; their combination of earthiness and otherworldliness magnificently conveyed by Marczi. Bartók is represented by his Trois Burlesques, each one combining propulsive dance rhythms with bold modernity. The rest of the disc concentrates on music composed between 1976 and 1989, the exception being an arresting, expressionist miniature from 1914 composed by László Lajtha, a fellow folksong collecting colleague of Bartók and Kodály.

Kurtág's 1976 Splinters are recognisably from the same tradition. Marczi's quickfire articulation is extraordinary, as are the fourth movement's resonant, tolling bass notes. She gives us a crystalline, percussive Ligeti Étude and a pair of pieces written by Zoltán Jeney. His Arthur Rimbaud in the Desert is an extraordinary study in musical disintegration, the silences between the notes rapidly lengthening. Only Gyula Csapó's improvisatory The Ultimate Goal slightly outstays its welcome. As is usual with Odradek, presentation and production are immaculate. A fabulous, ear-stretching disc.”

Arts Desk Graham Rickson January 18, 2014

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“‘Splinters’ couldn't be more appropriate name for pianist Mariann Marci's collection of Hungarian piano pieces that are generally thorny, brief and sometimes aphoristic in nature, such as the four-movement suite by Kurtág that opens the disc. This leads into ‘Fém’ from Ligeti’s second book of Etudes, where Marczi’s crisp, hard-hitting interpretation differs from Aimard’s faster, suaver dispatch (Sony, 1/97). She builds Kodály’s Méditation from the sustained bass-line upwards, and makes as compelling a case as any for the same composer’s Seven Pieces; listen to her marvellous differentiation between the steady staccato left hand and the edgy legato right-hand line. The 10th piece of László Lajtha’s Contes, Op 2, receives a slightly drier and more incisive reading compared alongside Klára Körmendi’s more expansive and sensuous traversal (Marco Polo, 4/93 -- Marczi plays the opening measure considerably faster, for example).

Marczi brings such feathery lightness and rhythmic sparkle to Bartók’s Three Burlesques that it’s easy to forget her idiomatic phrasing and accentuation of the folk-based melodies. Of the two Zoltán Jeney works, I prefer the painfully sparse Arthur Rimbaud in the Desert (if you respond to John Cage’s late ‘number’ pieces, you’ll probably like this) over the grey, austere and frankly dull Ricercare. Although the disc’s final and longest piece, Gyula Csapó’s The Ultimate Goal, was written by a Morton Feldman pupil, I hear more of the austere, bare-bones discontinuity that often marks Christian Wolff’s piano music. The slightly distant, opaque sound suits both the music’s dynamic extremes and the detailed integrity of Marczi’s interpretations.”

Gramophone Jed Distler December 2, 2013

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“With all of the composers on this CD elements of Hungarian folk music, or ‘verbunkos’, can be heard both in the pieces themselves and in Marczi’s performance. This style consists of a slow dance followed by a faster one. The juxtaposition in pace represents the two contrasting aspects of the Hungarian character and serves to keep the listener on the alert.

Maximising the effect and impact of every note and gesture, Marczi plays Kurtág’s Splinters with expressive intensification. These shard- like sections, lasting mere seconds - a few minutes at most - form a compositional journey where each fragment is a deconstructed element, not a conclusive reduction, but a sliver of expansive possibility. Both Marczi and Kurtág speak with a paradoxically quivering directness that absorbs musical tradition, but does not become suffocated by its heaviness. In this way, untrammelled, the unmediated joys and despairs of life are given centre-stage...

Marczi renders [Ligeti’s eighth etude, Fem] a chilling pitter-patter of falling raindrops on an uneven surface... Blending Hungarian folk with French impressionism, Kodály’s compositions are performed with subtle intelligence and heartening gravitas.

In de l’automne du champ, from Contes, Lajtha’s sensibilities are unshackled by Marczi’s sensitivity, astonishing openness and clarity... Bartók’s Trois Burlesques pour piano... has a directness of gesture and in its angularity, has numerous ‘modern’ qualities. Marczi’s interpretation dramatises the dialogue between traditional lyricism and sudden, unexpected accents...

Jeney’s... Ricercare is a minimal piece, captivatingly symbolic and utterly poetic. The influence of Pierre Boulez can be heard in Arthur Rimbaud in the Desert. This piece sounds as if we’re three men on Rimbaud’s drunken boat, as we rock listlessly with Jeney and Marczi. Csapo’s The Ultimate Goal startles with a crashing opening and elemental sounds... Marczi’s notes seem to hang, suspended in a muted, timeless world.

In short, this CD merits high praise both for its exposé of modern day composers and Marczi’s nuanced, intelligent interpretations.”

Music Web International Lucy Jeffery February 14, 2014

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“This intriguing CD takes its name from the eponymous set of four strange, haunting piano pieces by György Kurtág. Tiny though they are, they reveal Mariann Marczi as a pianist of fine, sensitive touch. In the third piece Marczi has to place whispering rapid flurries in both hands over a gaunt melody — a very tricky manoeuvre which she carries off brilliantly.

This is the opening gambit in a cleverly programmed CD which offers a portrait in fragments (or splinters) of Hungarian piano music in the 20th century. The early pieces by Kodály, Bartók and László Lajtha are especially interesting, as they reveal just how torn Hungarian composers were in their cultural loyalties before the First World War. Kodály’s Seven Pieces have a gorgeous French harmonic opulence, though here and there a folk-like arabesque gives a hint of what was to come. Bartók's Burlesques show a similar fusion, though Lajtha’s piece leans more towards German expressionism.
In this context, Kurtág’s gnomic epigrams and Ligeti’s capering piano etude ‘Fém’ (precise and delicate and soft-edged in this performance) seem like a continuation of the same cultural conversation. In the Final two pieces, by Zoltán Jeney and Gyula Csapó, we have a new one, with American experimentalism. The results aren't so rewarding musically, but no matter. Overall this is a wonderfully intelligent disc, beautifully played.”

5 STARS - BBC Music Magazine Ivan Hewett March 2014

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“Mariann Marczi brings us a unique tribute to the great contemporary musicians of her country: the history of Hungarian music is full of talent and at the beginning of the twentieth century gave a new turn thanks to the encounter between Bartók and Kodály. Recovering folk music putting it to the service of the contemporaneity, it marries modernity with tradition, with exquisite and significant results. Kodály combines the pentatonic scales with that of the whole-tone: a double homage to the French and Hungarian folk music. The metallic Ligeti Etude, with brilliant sonorities and complex rhythmic frameworks in both hands, betrays the influence of Bartók’s percussive piano, demonstrating the enormous mechanism of the instrument, completely dominated by Mariann Marczi. Csapo's music, with this game of measured and disturbing silences, proposes a challenge that keeps us in suspense every time these silences become more present, and every time the absence emphasizes the presence more. Rimbaud in the Desert (a most suggestive title, considering that this is one of the enfants terribles of modern literature, and a first class Bartleby), moves in the music of Jeney through pure evocation, a deliberate loss in the desert. A loss with no return.

Marczi has chosen wisely and carefully a repertory of shining, curious examples, some playful, others startling, of the music for piano of her compatriots. A lesson that teaches us where the new and the old are not incompatible and that Hungary was and remains an indispensable reference in music.”

**** EXCELENTE - Ritmo Inés Ruiz Artola March 2014

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“All of this music has been central to Mariann Marczi's repertory, a fact which is unmistakable in these authoritative and penetrating performances.”

Expedition Audio Paul Ballyk March 16 2014

Mariann Marczi

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