> Kodaly, Elgar: The Music Makers [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

Zoltan KODALY (1882-1967)
Introductory speech by Madame Kodaly
An Ode. The Music Makers
A Summer Evening

Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

The Music Makers

Christina Wilson, mezzo-soprano
Choir of Oxford da Camera
Oxford Orchestra da Camera
Howard Williams
Recorded live at St Johnís, Smith Square, London 24 May 2001
SOMM CD 230 [77í44]


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Full marks if you knew that Kodaly set The Music Makers. It was written for performance in Merton College, Oxford in 1964 and Kodaly, who was a frequent visitor to England (the BBC taped him conducting his own work with the LSO and others in the 1960s), was now eighty-one. The setting is for chorus, brass and strings and first performed in the College Chapel on June 1st 1964 by the Kodaly Choir, and members of the Collegium Musicum Oxoniense and the Bath Festival Orchestra. They were conducted by Laszlo Heltay, one of the composerís Hungarian pupils.

After a slightly raw start from the brass the lyrical unison invocation of OíShaughnessyís poem leads to harmonically rich layers. The opening sounds very English and not just because the setting is in English Ė the unison passage especially so. The increase in harmonic interest and complexity mirrors the poem, underpinned by some structurally supportive brass figures. The developing richness of the choral writing is an especially atmospheric one and ends in the restatement of the opening lines, inflected now with far greater complexity, and concluding in final, taxing high notes which are well sustained by the choir and, in terms of the setting, convey the sense of the distance come. Hardly a masterpiece but a sensitive setting and it would have been good if Somm had individually tracked it as they do the Elgar.

A Summer Evening was written in 1929/20 and premiered by Toscanini and the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York in April 1930. Itís a lyrical and pastoral eighteen-minute work and a fairly compact sonata structure. The orchestra copes well with it, balancing well and despatching some tricky sounding horn writing with something approaching aplomb. The agitated central sections of the work are well integrated by Howard Williams as well and they make a cohesive case for this slight work. The Elgar performance was received by the St Johnís audience with some enthusiastic cheers. Mezzo Christina Wilson makes a promising debut on disc. She has a resonant and strongly shaped voice and conveys the nostalgia and intimacy of the music with considerable awareness. The orchestra respond well to the score, not underlining the composerís self-borrowings to an unnecessary degree. The whole concert was prefaced by comments from Madame Kodaly who made an evocative speech.

Jonathan Woolf


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