> Zoltan Kodaly - Sonata for solo cello [TH]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Sonata for solo cello, Op.8 (1915)
Duo for violin and cello, Op.7 (1914)
Jerry Grossman (cello)
Daniel Phillips (violin)
Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters,
New York City, October 1983 DDD
WARNER APEX 7559 79672 2 [59.09]


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The really excellent budget Apex series continues to release impressive discs that do not always pander to the mainstream public taste. Take the present issue; these marvellous pieces will be well known to specialist chamber-music lovers, or aficionados of the particular instruments, but are unlikely to figure in many general collections. At this give-away price, music lovers can take a chance and indulge in some new repertoire; I guarantee they will be rewarded with stimulating music that is as original as anything in Bartók, and in performances of real power and commanding stature.

The provenance of these Apex issues is not always clear, but the presence in this case of senior Nonesuch producer Judith Sherman, suggest they may be the original source. Whatever the case, the recorded sound is beautifully projected and clear, with plenty of bloom and a natural acoustic. This is such a logical coupling that I’m surprised more record companies have not exploited it; there are one or two notable rivals, such as an Arte Nova recording, but I can hardly imagine more persuasive accounts than the ones given here.

The music itself is original and full of surprises. Kodály’s ethnomusicolgical field studies with his friend and compatriot Bartók yielded great results for them both, and many folk elements find their way into the two present works. Folk rhythms, harmonies, sonorities and direct quotation of Magyar melodies all shape the contour and style of the pieces to great effect. As with Bartók, there is no hint of pastiche, but a complete integration into the composer’s own particular way of working. Thus, the imperious opening of the Solo Cello Sonata has a romantic yearning that almost sounds Brahmsian, yet manages to use sparse fourths and fifths that tell us where the inspiration lies. The sumptuous sound that Jerry Grossman gets from his instrument also manages to convey the size and massive scope of the piece. He never loses sight of the strict formal procedures binding the work together, and the performance as a whole strides the perfect line between tradition and modernity. The marvellously invigorating finale, marked Allegro molto vivace, shows the artist at full stretch, and the virtuosity is thrilling.

The Duo is in many ways even more remarkable. Kodály conjures up an amazing variety of textures for just two instruments, and at times the piece sounds like a full blown Bartók string quartet! The adagio second movement is ‘full of suppressed passion’(to quote the concise but excellent liner note) and again the finale bursts with excitement and invention. The rapport between the two players is well-nigh ideal, and the give-and-take demonstrates that the players really understand the intricate patterns of counterpoint that the composer is weaving.

This issue confirms to me that the Apex series is one of the most stimulating and adventurous budget series around. Whatever their provenance, the performances all seem, at least to my ears, to be consistently of the very highest quality. This Kodály release deserves success, and no-one investing their hard earned fiver is likely to be disappointed.

Tony Haywood


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