Though I have long been affectionately inclined towards
that other Decca Kodaly series - the one from Dorati and the
Philharmonia Hungarica - I have been aware that something between auditorium,
orchestral sound and engineering left the listener with an unsatisfying
impression. I refreshed my memory by listening again and the Dorati
seems just that mite crowded in audio terms and fuzzy-edged by comparison
with the decade older Kertész though cleaner in terms of hiss.
The London Symphony Orchestra with István Kertész
are smilingly favoured in both the audio and the orchestral departments.
The sound is vintage Decca with wide-spanning breadth and fathoms of
depth. The gnawings of time are betrayed only in close-up in the first
seconds of János where there is a momentary blemish or
two at the bass level as if the tape had flaked or been accidentally
scored. The cimbalom, as much the signature of János as
the fairytale sneeze that opens it, is given due prominence in the sound-canvas
... and no more. Kertész handles with hushed suspenseful magic
the slow descent into sleep at the end of Song (tr 3). Analogue
sound from 1964 (János and Galánta) means
hiss but it is insignificant being subjugated by some enchanting primary-hued
For a London orchestra the LSO display a chameleon-like
aptitude for Hungarian hues. As in Galánta Kertesz shows
a willingness to chill out and romanticise. Unlike the Eloquence with
Mehta's Bartók Concerto for Orchestra this CD stints on
the discographical details although the venue sounds very much like
the lamented and now fallen Kingsway Hall. I suspect a different venue
for Kertész's leisurely and well prepared Peacock Variations.
The recording is refined with the harp at 14.20 subtly limned and yet
resolved harmoniously into the greater orchestral 'picture'. The same
is applicable to the Delian flutings at 18.37. It is a pity that Eloquence
did not distinctly band each of the episodes in Peacock. The
Dorati/Philharmonia Hungarica recording on 443 006-2 does just that.
A winning collection notwithstanding the age of the
recordings first made almost forty years ago. Try Kertesz's unabashedly
romantic folksiness. A lovely disc for a price that is not merely
modest but negligible.