Friday, March 21, 2014

CCC 097 - Thomas Rajna

Hungarian-born Thomas Rajna is this week's featured Consonant Classical Challenge artist. Rajna, currently living and teaching in South Africa, has enjoyed a successful career as a concert pianist, recording artist, and composer. Rajna's compositional style is tonal, with thick, complex harmonies. His melodies are quite lyrical, and the richness of his textures allows them to be quite expressive.

As one might expect, Rajna's composed extensively for his instrument. His solo piano works include a set of preludes, and his chamber works almost always feature a piano plus another instrument. Rajna's also composed two piano concertos, but his output doesn't stop there. He's also written concertos for violin and harp, as well as shorter works for clarinet and violin with orchestral accompaniment. Rajna's written orchestral works, a ballet, and an opera (as well as other vocal pieces), all in his distinctive style.

Suite for violin and harp - For most of the movements, there are chords consisting of stacked thirds, with a supple, lyrical melody floating over the top.

Violin Concerto - Rajna's orchestration has a distinctive sound to it. While the harmonies are rich, there's a transparency to the music that keeps it from sounding heavy.

String Quartet No. 2 - The work builds upon the string quartets of Bartok and Kodaly (composers whose works have been recorded by Rajna). The tonal foundation of the music, juxaposed against the chromatic motion of the melodies and second-relationships creates a dynamic and tension that's only fully resolved in the epilogue.

Piano Prelude No. 5 - There's nothing like the composer performing his own work -- especially one for solo piano. You can hear how Rajna takes full advantage of his prodigious technique, and also (if you listen carefully), his love of jazz -- which he has also performed.

Thomas Rajna is well-known in South Africa, where he's made his home. His recordings are distributed and sold throughout Europe. And he's worked with conductors and orchestras that are prominent in America? So why has he not quite arrived in the US? I'm not sure. It's certainly not because of the quality of his music. Perhaps this will change over time. Rajna's music should appeal to both audiences conservative and adventuresome. I, for one, would really like to hear his piano concertos.

Recommended Recordings

(as performer) Granados: Allegro di Concierto; Valses Poeticos; Capricho Espanol; Rapsodia Aragonesa

Schumann: Piano Quintet Opus

(as composer)
Instrumental Music by Hungarian Composers

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