On this CD, René Clemencic and his musicians perform a wide variety of traditional
Hungarian Christmas music – from pieces so old they have no date up to those from the 18th century.
Much of this Christmas music is based on Hungarian folk tunes – one of the richest bodies of melodies in the world – and ranging from simple, almost minimalistic
forms all the way to long melodies with complex structures. Clemencic contrasts these mostly one-voice folk music pieces with polyphonic works from the Middle Ages and Baroque. To fit the archaic character of the music, many traditional instruments, including hurdy-gurdy, Jew’s harp, gemshorn, musette etc. can be heard alongside more classical ones.
This is an unusual Christmas CD that leads us into the powerful musical world of Hungary and touches us with its emotional sincerity.
A Beautiful Rose Blossoms
Christmas Music from the old Hungary
Old Hungarian Christmas music contains an unmistakable depth and universally human element. Practically all registers of human emotion find expression in these dulcet tones. Deeply mystical, extremely joyful emotional beatitude and youthfully innocent joviality coexist side by side. Folk elements are effortlessly
mixed with the highly stylized, archaic and pagan elements are blended together with Christian. The various influences meld with natural ease and versatility!
Our timeframe is virtually unlimited. It begins
with the ancient and archaic and extends to include music of the 18th century, whereby the individual pieces only rarely enjoy a specific
date. That which sounds old can just as easily be new and that which sounds new could have it origins in times long past.
Most of the Christmas pieces stem from the realm of Hungarian folk music, whose treasure trove of melodies is one of the richest
in the world. It spans from the simplest, quasi minimalist structures, to complicated and broadly arranged melodic compositions.
This world of sounds appears as a wonderfully large puzzle, just as the Hungarian people and their language do, direct on our borders in the middle of Europe. Origin and age are not always
capable of being discerned. The hint of an ancient musical realm blends almost seamlessly
with that of the new. In particular, Bartók
and Kodály are to receive credit for calling attention to this treasure and guaranteeing its status as a living tradition.
We have supplemented the essentially monophonic folk music with polyphonic pieces
from the Middle Ages and Baroque. Novus annus adiit, Rotulus and In hoc anni circulo are drawn from an upper-Hungarian manuscript
from the early 15th century, the time of Sigismund, the Roman Emperor of the German Nation and King of Hungary. Rotulus is canonical
in its influence. The versions comprised of four vocals, mostly German church songs, are part of the Graduale von Eperjes (1635). A colourful mixture of Hungarian and German songs accompanies the Latin Church music (Halljatok Mennyégböl, Nekünk ez Napon, Mind ez világ). The subsequent 16th century Almande is meant to demonstrate the older origin of Mind ez világ. The three pieces for the organ (Fiant Domine, Fantasia, Kyrie) are taken from the Codex Kájoni. János Kájoni, a Catholic priest, was an organist, organ builder, philosopher, theologian, printer and painter. His Cantionale Catholicum is a voluminous collection of Catholic hymns, the melodies of which are, at least in part, likely taken from the folk tradition and in certain cases were taken up into the folk song tradition. The Codex Kájoni
contains, among other things, a series of – mostly anonymous – pieces for the organ, predominantly for use in the church.
ANDRÁS L. KECSKÉS
Translation: Maurice Sprague
András L. Kecskés completed his studies in the lute and guitar in Vienna in 1977, and has taught master classes since that time in Hungary,
Belgium, France and elsewhere. Since 1972, he has been a permanent member of the Clemencic
Consort. In 1977, he established his own ensemble, which won first prize in the following year at the Old Music competition in Bruges in the chamber orchestra category.
In addition to the old European musical tradition,
the repertoire of the Kecskés-Ensemble includes the music of the Asian courts of nobility
from the 10th to 18th century. The primary objective of the ensemble is to perform these musical traditions with authentic instrumentation.
The success of this endeavour is reflected
in more than 70 programs and ca. 50 recordings that have been awarded numerous international prizes.
Péter Kecskés is the brother of András L. Kecskés. He earned his diploma at the University of Miskolc, Hungary, in the discipline
of Hungarian Folk Musicology. He has been a member of the Kecskés-Ensemble for ten years. He performs on the hurdy-gurdy, harp, jew’s harp and guitar.
Tamás Kiss began his music education on the piano and later studied guitar. Parallel
to his music education, he successfully studied chemistry and subsequently worked as a restoration specialist for various museums.
During his studies, he made a name for himself as an interpreter of Hungarian folk music and Old Music (in particular with his
interpretation of historical songs, ballads and troubadour songs); from 1975-1985 he was a permanent member of the Kecskés-Ensemble, in which he both sang and performed on various
instruments (lute and hurdy-gurdy). He performed together with René Clemencic for the first time in 1980; aside from these musical endeavours, he performed regularly with the Provençal musician Michel Montanaro, with Erdal Salikoglu (Istanbul) and the Hungarian composer György Szabados. He has made guest appearances throughout Europe, the United States and Japan.
His reputation as an outstanding solo artist and valuable ensemble member is documented
by his 30 recordings. Tamás Kiss has taught the Koboz (medieval lute) for fifteen years at the Hungarian School for Folk Music (Budapest,
3rd District), and has lead the institution since 1991.
Thomas Wimmer was born in Austria in 1961 and studied viola da gamba in Vienna. After
his early discovery of his penchant for music
of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, he quickly made historical instrumentation his speciality (Renaissance-gamba, vihuela d’arco, fiddle, rubebe). Due to a particular fascination
with the multifaceted and multicultural
music of early Spain, he established the ensemble Accentus Austria in 1992, which has – since its beginnings – concentrated on the music of the Iberian Peninsula from the 16th and 17th centuries. In recent years, this ensemble
has expanded its repertoire to include German music from the same period.
Since 1999, he has taught music at the “Privatuniversität Konservatorium Wien” and instructed courses for early string instruments at the Higher Institute for Occidental Music in Damascus, Syria. He has appeared with Accentus
Austria and as a member or guest of other ensembles (including the Collegium Vocale Gent, Armonico Tributo, Ensemble Unicorn, Clemencic Consort and others) in Moscow, Canada, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon,
Turkey, Morocco, and Iran, as well as throughout all of Europe and at every musical
festival and performance hall of import in Austria (Konzerthaus und Musikverein Wien, Brucknerhaus Linz, Styriarte Graz, Ambraser Schlosskonzerte, Salzburger Festspiele).
In 2006, he assumed musical leadership of the staging of The Tragedy of Arianna that was produced in the European cultural capital of Patras under the direction of Maria Gyparakis. He has recorded more than thirty CDs.
Wolfgang Reithofer was born in Neunkirchen
in Lower Austria and began learning the piano at the age of six. In 1969, he won the “Jeunesse musicale” competition. Wolfgang Reithofer studied music education and percussion under Prof. Richard Hochrainer and completed his diploma in 1976 at the Vienna College for Music and Performing Arts. He has been a permanent member of the Clemencic Consort since 1974. Since 1976, Reithofer has been engaged as a percussionist for the Vienna Volksoper and active in the Jazz and music entertainment
industry. He has composed numerous
works in various musical genres.
Since 1990, he has been the proprietor of a music and recording studio and has served as director of recording and music technician for numerous productions, including those of the Clemencic Consort, Ensemble Accentus and Ensemble Unicorn. He has performed as a percussionist internationally in concerts and participated in radio broadcasts, television productions and CD recordings.