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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Háry János suite (1925, 1927)
Dances of Galánta (1934)
Peacock Variations (1939)
LSO/István Kertész
rec 1964 (János, Galánta), 1970 (Peacock) ADD
ELOQUENCE DECCA 461 012-2 [66.15]


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 music making.

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.

Rob Barnett

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