This is not a new compact disc, but its music is so noteworthy that the lack of reviews on this and other forums needs addressing.
For those who don't know: Sándor Veress (1907-1992) is Hungarian and belongs between Bartók and Kodaly, his teachers, and Ligeti and Kurtag, his pupils. He emigrated to Switzerland at the ripe age of 45, upon the installation of a Soviet-style regime in Hungary after the war. The music reflects this in its special blend of Bartók's spirit and Frank Martin's very Swiss sensibility.
Veress's 1951 Hommage à Paul Klee (27:05) is a seven-movement work that combines ethereal soundscapes with a frisky jazziness, presumably reflecting in music seven of Klee's paintings. Its frequent adaptations for ballet are a function of the musical suggestion of both celestial and playful moods. Not that it lacks fire. Not at all. The fifth, Allegretto movement is a no less than a rhythmic tour de force with plucked strings ratcheting up excitement for the rambunctious pianos. And the near-mystical, next-to-last movement, an Andante, is similarly chased away by a tumultuous Vivo that closes the Hommage.
It's a (two-) piano concerto in all but name, blending tuneful folk forms within a sometimes austere aesthetic. There's stronger drama in the 1952 Concerto for Piano, Strings and Percussion (28:55), which is in the usual movements - fast, slow, faster. The second is very much for solo piano, except where strings come in to add contour. The strings and percussion churn and whirl emphatically past the first movement's mid-point, where the piano settles into a solo, lyrical, near-glacially-paced theme. Various percussion instruments spur the soloists and strings into convoluted tensions until a celesta and yet others come in to embellish. All this delightful turmoil lets up only at the approach of the close -- one of the most sparkling endings to a work of this kind. After a longish silence, with sotto voce accompaniment from the ensemble a gracefully-shaped piano figuration closes the work with a delightful poetic twist.
These two robust works are supplemented by Veress's Six Csárdás. Schiff plays these piano miniatures, six Hungarian dances, with his usual sensitivity and artful precision.
These works are all approachable, despite the underlying but never jarring dissonance and a certain emotional coolness. Still, Veress's music is mostly lively, has a strong personality and never prey to musical clichés. The Concerto may be less ethereal than the Hommage, and is perhaps less charming. Both are rhythmic, tuneful works that amply reward repeated hearings.
The performers' commitment to this music is complete, and Teldec's technical team can boast of flawless sound in their recording. The booklet is informative and has reproductions of the seven paintings. Conducted by Heinz Holliger (a third Veress pupil), this is an ideal starting point for Veress beginners and essential for anyone curious about this distinctive 20th century central European composer.