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Vidor Nagy in concert and artist portrait

Eccles & Brunetti to Bartók and Hindemith

Vidor Nagy, Viola / Günter Schmidt, Klavier; Staatsorchester Stuttgart / Gabriele Ferro

Hera02201 [TT 1:38 +1:47]

This double DVD produced by Ralph Kullig is an important companion to the recent and more "finished" production previously reviewed.

Full details of the wide ranging repertoire, Eccles & Brunett to Bartók and Hindemithi, via Schubert's Arpeggione (with all the notes by Kullig & Nagy himself) are to be found on the Hera website at: http://www.editionhera.de/02201.htm#eng

It is a labour of love and confidence in the enduring worth of this great violist's performances, filmed albeit somewhat amateurishly by friends and colleagues present at the concerts.

There is no DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, HD DVD and Blu-ray Blu-ray 3D etc to impress you; just simple hand held filming, with tripod or not; no restless camera movements and changes of viewpoints. It provide an archive in accessible sound, free of all the constraints of the current world of professional DVD production.

Having recently been stunned (briefly) by watching Toy Story 3 in 3D cinema with special spectacles, it has proved quite refreshing to return to the days of fuzzy video tapes, VHS up to two decades ago, "the residual poor quality of the material only a secondary consideration" [Ralph Kullig].

They proved for me quite adequate, with sound quality up to good, if never of extravagant 2000 state-of-the-art perfection, of course. But you know you are not being deceived by retakes and digital splicing, so there is a feeling of genuineness and authenticity. You look at the screen sometimes and mainly just listen...

I have a large collection of Third Programme tapes in various formats, the originals having been "wiped" for storage consderations by the BBC's unthinking music department of the times. Many of them are artistically valuable, though unlikely to be so commercially; we do however enjoy releases prepared optimally from ancient discs for historial labels and by special outlets such as Music Preserved.

Keenly recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Three Interpretations of the Bach Chaconne

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 -1750) Ciaconna BWV 1004
Phantasma I. 14:46
Phantasma II. 15:11
Phantasma III. 15:19

Adagio und Fuge (Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott) BWV 1005

Vidor Nagy - Viola

HERA 02002


The first thing which strikes one about Vidor Nagy is his humility. Every inch of his body seems to be directed into creating the divine in music, completely devoid of ego.


A simple Hungarian village church seems the perfect place to record this video. Vidor Nagy is completely alone, devoid of any audience but the film crew - one feels he is offering his music directly to God and to us. The solitude of the human condition and the paradox of Bach’s music, creating the divine and unearthly out of something so physical, four strings and a bow, is almost exacerbated by the use of the viola. It is bigger than the the violin, one's fingers are required to contort into more awkward positions, more physical effort is required.


What would Bach have made of his violin music being performed on the viola? According to his son Carl Phillip Emanuel he ‘liked best to play the viola’. It is perfectly conceivable that J S Bach may himself have tried these works out on his viola. Indeed Bach often transferred material from one instrument to another. The increased difficulty of playing on the viola already incredibly technically challenging music may have prevented him from publishing a version for this instrument.  


Vidor Nagy’s interpretations are immensely enjoyable, his warm mellow sound adding more depth to the bass than a violin could.


The three renditions of the chaconne explore different emphases on melody and harmony; perfect material to teach the importance of considering both when tackling Bach’s solo works. One only needs to look to the gospels to see how interpretations of God vary viewed through human eyes- only impressions of the original can be created.


Playing just the most monumental movements of Bach’s sonatas and partitas does seem to be taking some liberties? Iit is interesting to view the Chaconne as an arch leading to the C major fugue ( on viola now in F major), highlighting the through nature of Bach’s sonatas and partitas, which were conceived not as individual works but as an entire entity.


However what of the rest? The grand opening of the G minor sonata to the joyous E major partita. Nagy has left us with just one installment of a whole journey, considering his version ‘a triple arched entrance to the palace of the most magnificent fugue ever composed for string instruments’.


Paganini in chiesa

12 der 24 Capricen für Violine solo für die Viola



After such a feat, Paganini on the viola sounds like lunacy; Nagy pulls it off, although occasional patches do sound rough around the edges.


Paganini’s world seems a million miles away from Bach's; music to make a hero of the virtuoso.


However, are they so dissimilar? Both explore the boundaries of their instrument, and both composers also played viola. Indeed Paganini most have also been a viola virtuoso as he considered Berlioz’s Harold in Italy to be easy.


Paganini’s Caprices are often dismissed as being shallow, however, as the Wihans have proved in their quartet version, there is surprising depth underneath their sparkling facades. Remarkably Nagy, rather than highlighting the virtuosity of playing the Caprices on the viola, he brings out the true music, albeit in a more serious manner to the Wihans.


A must for all viola connoisseurs; not only can one hear Nagy play works attempted by only the bravest of violists, one can also watch how he does it.


Anna Michel



Mozart Piano Sonatas and Concertos

Carmen Piazzini (piano)
& St Petersburg Soloists/Michael Gantvarg

Edition Hera DVD 02200
(2 DVDs - 16 hours 36 mins audio + 44 mins video)

Also received, another technical miracle, musically less commanding; all Mozart's piano sonatas and piano concertos, plus extras, on two discs in a neat book format.

Hera managed to get all the concertos and sonatas onto two DVDs, packaged conveniently with a 21-page booklet in English (82 pages complete for multilingual texts).

They were produced by Ralph Kulling, who explains that for many years he had enjoyed Sunday lunchtime concerts in Stuttgart "in particular whenever music by Mozart was performed". Carmen Piazzini is an Argentinian pianist "who grew up in Buenos Aries with famous guests like Arrau, Backhaus, Gieseking, Rubinstein and Toscanini".

She lives in Germany and teaches at Karlsruhe. Her interpretations give him this very "relaxed Sunday feeling", and prompted him to publish them "on up to date media for the 251st anniversary of Mozart, whose beautiful music is always a delight, not just in years of big, official anniversaries".

The recordings date from 1989/1990 and were made in Sandhausen (sonatas) and St. Petersburg (concertos), the concertos on a Steinway D, the sonatas on a Bosendorfer. There are also didactic videos by the pianist.

The production values are high and the transfers entirely satisfactory. They are not in any way remarkable performances, but can be described as serviceable and useful; the discs coud be a boon for broadcasters, and for collectors who like to have integrales of major repertoire, and there could be no more convenient way to store them!

Carmen Piazzini can be heard to better advantage, with Vidor Nagy and Jürgen Gerlinger cello, in an unusual disc of viola trios by Beethoven, Brahms & Zemlinsky
[HERA HER2119]


Music by Johann STRAUSS I, father



Old Vienna Strauss Ensemble/Kulling

HERA 02007

Aufforderung zum tanz

Carl Maria von Weber, Joseph Lanner, Gioachino Rossini, Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehár, Eduard Strauss, Josef Strauss & Carl Michael Ziehrer

Old Vienna Strauss Ensemble/Kulling
(with Maria Theresa Ullrich - mezzosoprano)

HERA 02008

Ralph Kulling, who was responsible for championing Vidor Nagy and his discs reviewed above, is director of this typical salon/ballroom sized orchestra, which was founded by Kulig's father Alfred in 1972, and has a substantial discography.

This CD tribute to Strauss the father (1804-1849) is welcome, and balances the far greater popularity of the younger Johann Strauss.

Appropriately more restrained than the Strauss favourites to be heard annually on New Year's Day and published on DVD, the well varied sequence is played stylishly and well recorded.

For a complete track-list and detailed appreciation, together with information about others in the series, see Musicweb's review.

The next release covers mostly Viennese waltz-related works by the Strauss family and others who developed the genre. It is equally good, well produced and with interesting notes by Dr Edward Strauss

Peter Grahame woolf

MOZART Clarinet Quintet & SMETANA String Quartet No.1

Simon Löffelmann (clarinet), Hölderlin Quartet (Ralph Kulling, Thomas Haug (violins), Bojidar Dobrev (viola), Christoph Bieber (cello)) rec. 1990, Leinfelden Echterdingen

EDITION HERA 02122 [63 mins]

This second disc has been given special consideration because of leader Ralph Kulig's involvement with those recordings reviewed above.

Regrettably it cannot be recommended in a crowded repertoire. Both works are better represented elsewhere, and at only 63 mins it is further uncompetitive, despite clean playing and good recorded sound. For an intersting version of the Mozart, see

I am sure it will satisfy those who attend concerts by the Holderlin Quartet and want mementos. of their evening.

See fuller review by one of MusicalPointers reviewers.

And for a special Mozart Quintet recording, see BoothClarinets

Peter Grahame Woolf