Friday, May 09, 2014

CCC 101 - Zsolt Gardonyi

This week the Consonant Classical Challenge focuses on Hungarian composer Zsolt Gardonyi. Gardonyi is not only a distinguished organist and composer, but he's also the son of composer Zoltán Gárdonyi, who studied with Hindemith and Kodály. That musical lineage is evident in the younger Garonyi's work. Zsolt Gardonyi writes tonally based music without being confined to traditional major/minor triads.

The "Grand Choeur" is a good example of Gardonyi's style. The work has a clear-cut melody, propelled forward by logical harmonic motion. It's a work that takes full advantage of the expressive power of the organ. Even though there's rapid pedal work, and thick textures throughout, the music never sounds muddy, but rather clearly delineated from start to finish.

"EGATOP" -- Hommage à Erroll Garner + Art Tatum + Oscar Peterson, shows Gardonyi perfectly comfortable with non-classical music. On the surface, it's a fun, jazzy little showpiece for organ, but listen carefully. Gardonyi doesn't just present a medley of tunes, he skillfully weaves the themes together to support each other, creating a cohesive and unified whole.

"Genfi zsolter," for chorus and organ, shows more of Kodály's influence than Hindemith's (at least to my ears). The hymn tune has a folk-like quality to it that sounds distinctively Hungarian. Yet the thick harmonies and extended relations add complex and subtle shadings to the text.

Gardonyi's "Introduction and Chorale" for Organ, Three Trumpets and Tympani is a setting of a well-known hymn-tune. Yet even while Gardonyi delivers the familiar melody, he does so in an original manner. The harmonies are more complex than one might expect, and the interplay between the instruments more involved, taking the work beyond that of a simple fanfare.

Zsolt Gardonyi's output seems to be primarily for liturgical forces. But rather than be limited by that focus, it seems to inspire him. Garonyi's music is well-rooted in tradition, so the average listener should find it immediately accessible. At the same time, the depth and nuanced harmonic shading of his music provide plenty of interest for the more advanced listener.

Recommended Recordings

Works By Zsolt Gardonyi for Organ Dezso Karasszon Organist

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