As it can be traced back from contemporary sources, including the scores published at the time, some particular forms of ragtime were well known in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy simultaneously to the original appearance of these forms. Thas is especially the case with the caka walk, the so-called indian songs and above all, popular ragtimes. This particularly rich body of material has served as the basis for the second ragtime record of the Hungarian Society for Jazz Research, thus representing all elemnts of contemporary ragtime in the Monarchy. Domestic and foreign pieces played on stage, in coffee houses and bars have been selected for this record. (The first CD of the current series, a solo one by pianist György Vukán, featured ragtimes mostly known from scores only. It was issued by the HSJR 1993 (Hotelinfo-Ferdinandus HSJR 2001 CD).
The dates next to the pieces refer to the year when they were first published in scores. We can state with great certainly that composers in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy have written these pieces quite a few years earlier than the dates signify, but they were only able to publish those after the first world war. The Op. Listing in the case of Aldár Székely must have been added later, on the occasion of their publishing, however it somehow resembles the musicological listings of Bach's or Mozart' oeuvre.
A part of the contemporary American and European ragtime repertoire has been especially published for distribution in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. This is the case with the original cake walk of S. Webster, "Die lustigen Neger" (Coon Town Chimes) from 1902, which bore the inscript "Nur für Ungarn bestimmte Ausgabe" [Authorised edition for Hungary only]. Henry P. Vogel's "Neger Hochzeit" [Negro Wedding] has been published in the periodical "Zenélõ Magyarország" [Music-making Hungary] in 1903, The well known White Wash Man from1908 was composed by Jean Schwartz [1878-1956] in the States, though Schwartz was born in Budapest, and it became success in his native country, too. The classic Hungarian composer Ferenc Liszt influenced many american composers, including ragtime composers, and motives of his "2nd Hungary Rhapsody" return in many pieeces. Best known among these are "Rhapsody Rag", from 1911 by Harry Jentes [1887-1958] and "Hungarian Rag", from 1913, by Julius Lenzberg [1878-1956].
Many composers of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy envisioned some kind of a blend Schrammelmusik or salon music and ragtime. A typival example of that is the earliest piece called "Der Synkopengeiger" [Syncopated Fiddler] by Karl Haupt, in 1922. Under the pen name of Carly L., Carl Lafite must have composed the cake walk "The Little Susi" in 1903. The ragtimes by René Richard Schmal might as well be the most significant Austrian pieces of the time, notably his " The Star Ragtime" from 1919. "Grotesk Rag" by Ralph Erwin (Op.37, 1921) is also a noteworthy piece.
Albert Hetényi-Heidlberg was born in Vienna (1875-1951), nevertheless regarded himself a Hungarian. His " Lilly Rag" (Op.509, 1918) and "Lame Duck Rag" (Op. 512, 1918) are contained in our selection.
Many Hungarian operetta composers were inspired by the new trends, and have occasionally composed ragtime, too. The biggest surprise of all appears to be Albert Szirmai (1880-1967), who composed "Florida Ragtime" (1919). Lajos Barta's relatively Short "Excelsior Rag Time" (1917) was published in the periodical "Százezrek Zenéje" [Music for Hundreds of thousands]. Sándor Rozsnyai (1896-1944) represents the first generation of Hungarian ragtime pianists, and composed or covered many ragtimes. "Dunapalota Ragtime" [Danube Palace Ragtime] is a piece penned by him, it was selected as the title of the first historival ragtime compact disc.
The uncrowned king of contemporary Hungarian ragtime piano playing was, no doubt, Aladár Székely (1890-1927), whi is well represented in our selection. Some of the pieces were published with lyrics originally, while others were meant for piano only. György Vukán, who plays Székely's rag on the first CD of this series, said in an interview, that Aladár Székely the Hungarian Scott Joplin. His four most significant pieces researched to date, Pension Rag (Op.1, 1919); Tosca Rag (Op.18, 1920); Nervous Rag (Op.19, 1920); and Skeeper Rag (1924) match the standards of contemporary Anmerican ragtime compositions. Six of Alsdár Székely compositions have been recorded by an orchestra here for the first time. They are: "Episode Rag" (Op.2, 1919); "The Last Letter" (Op.3, 1920); az "Ah, Sári-Saroltah" (1919); a "Bent a szívem mélyén" [Deep Inside My Heart] (Op.7, 1920); "Van nekem egy tucat" [I've Got A Dozen] (Op.8, 1920); and "Baba vigyázzon én rám" [Baby, Take Good Care of Me] (Op.17, 1920).
The ragtime pieces of the Monarchy have been orchestrated by the outstanding figure of ragtime culture in Hungary nowadays; piano and violin player, composer and arranger Tanás Ittzés (b.1967). The basic line-up includes 3 violins, 2 clarinets, trumpet, piano, banjo, tuba and drums, and thus very much reflects the typical ragtime orchestra of the day in hungary, as well as showing the influence of gypsy and salon music ensembles. A special colour is mirrored in the arrangements for three violins, banjo and tuba, and the appearance of the xylophone.
The Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band, founded in 1985 in the town Kecskemét, is an outstanding representative of the traditional jazz scene in Hungary. Their first LP was issued by a privately owned independent label in 1989, a novelty at the time, "Original Rags" (Pannonton, JL 111) included the first recording of the Aladár Székely evergreen, "Pension Rag". Their new CD, we hope, is the beginning of a long-standing cooperation.
Translated by Kornél Zipernovszky
Cover text to the CD Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band: Hungarian Rag (Tandem Records-Hungarian Society for Jazz Research TR-HSJR 2004) (1994)