Bartók meets Hollywood in a score from a composer best known for film music. This CD is emblazoned with an ecstatic quote from Elliott Carter after he heard Seivewright play his Sonata (1946) at the Huddersfield Festival in 1983. “Almost never before has this Sonata received such a convincing and convinced performance” – and from memory too. That was 25 years ago and in the meantime John McCabe and the authoritative Charles Rosen have beaten Seivewright to the recording studio.
But the main interest here is the Sonata (1948) by the composer of classic film scores such as Ben-Hur and El Cid . Miklós Rózsa was born into a land-owning family in Hungary, trained in Germany and worked in Paris and London before moving to the US in 1940. Seivewright’s informative booklet essay laments the neglect of Rózsa’s concert music. The composer himself rated the Piano Sonata at the top of his output. The Hungarian influence is there along with the kind of busy continuity familiar in Hindemith but Rózsa has his own type of dissonant harmony that brings the second movement to the lacerating climax. What Seivewright calls the “Bartók-goes-to-Hollywood” style of the last movement is brilliantly brought off.
Throughout Seivewright exhibits a prodigious technique but unfortunately he is let down by the close and rather metallic recorded sound.