Januar/Februar 2003

Pleyel concertos - complete edition

Hungaroton is being very enterprising in deciding to produce a complete edition of Ignace Pleyel’s string concertos. The double CD which has come out first, contains five cello concertos.
Pleyel, who was a student of Haydn, is a steady composer. The opening movements are vividly cheerful, the middle is an emotional adagio, the final movement is a sonata or sonata-rondo and they undoubtedly give evidence of the composer’s sensitivity to Haydn’s musical flavour.

Due to the soloist Péter Szabó, the pieces are performed according to a revised version of the author’s original score and according to contemporary practice, he plays his own cadences.
He is accompanied by the Erdődy Chamber Orchestra (whose founder, artistic director and concertmeister is Zsolt Szefcsik), which is doubly interesting also because the ensemble follows the format of the original orchestra, namely that of Count János Erdődy, patron and later employer of the young professional Pleyel.
Listening to the 1 st recording, we wonder in amazement how many other still enjoyable, delightful pieces of music were consigned to being forgotten. While our attention is, understandably and deservedly, held by the music of the greatest, we tend to push their contemporaries unjustly into the background. As we increasingly rediscover –thanks mainly to sound recordings – the auditory world that pleased so many then, we have to recognize that the everyday music language of the classic style possessed an extended vocabulary, with the help of which skilled composers could express their individual, often exquisite offerings.
Péter Szabó plays with a fine tone, he is sensitive to even the smallest-subtleties. This sensitivity pays off especially in the slow movements. You do not have to be a cellist to appreciate even by ear, the soloist’s natural affinity with the instrument. This seems particularly interesting because for a different soloist, the exposition of the many Pleyel concertos could be quite different.
The first CD’s opening piece for example was published in the composer’s lifetime as a viola concert, in a pianoforte version, appeared in clarinet, flute, oboe and bassoon concerts, even, in double concerto combinations. (This piece of information taken from the guide brochure is interesting in itself, but on full publication it will contain many more musical contents.. At that time, the question of which instrument makes the best home for certain compositions will become crucial .It will naturally also require a great amount of analytical work to explore the justification for the preparation of the transcriptions. From primarily the researchers’ point of view, the task would be to consider what reception greeted the very same piece with the contribution by another soloist.)
The question comes up inevitably, what drew performers to Pleyel’s concertos? Maybe it is because –although it would be futile to over-emphasise the dramatic depths –they are varied and colourful, with characterful melodies following one another throughout.
Hopefully, the evocative interpretation will arouse the interest of cellists, who, having listened to the album, might want to play, or even keep some of the concertos in their repertoire..

Katalin Fittler

Translation by Susan Kapás

Péter Szabó cellist, conductor, music editor
Péter Szabó's recordings are available on