Perlman, Zukerman and Harrell. CBS LP
The Dohnanyi work bears
the honour of being the most accessible,
most fun string trio ever written. By
the time I got to college I was well
familiar with it and looked forward
to the performance at the dormitory
one Sunday evening. The audience that
night was filled with engineering students
who had been warned that they must attend
and look interested or the honour of
their fraternity was in jeopardy. Imagine
then their reaction when they found
out classical music, chamber music at
that, could actually be a lot of fun.
The performers were a little taken aback
at the intensity of the approval. The
audience would not stop cheering and
applauding. I suspect that lives were
changed that night.
Apart from that, Dohnanyi
ranks with Donald Francis Tovey among
the most under-appreciated composers
of the 20th century. Yes, the Serenade
Op 10 is a crowning masterpiece;
I’ve known it for 50 years. Why doesn’t
everybody else know it? It must be them
Communists, or perhaps the BBC. An issue
in the performance of this work is whether
or not the peasant dance swagger should
be explicitly projected by the performers,
or should they play the notes as written
with beauty and precision and allow
the extra-musical qualities of the music
to manifest on their own. This recording
leans toward the latter criterion and
features rich string tone, melodic phrasing
and rhythmic lilt without exaggeration.
Perlman, Zukerman and
Harrell, on the other hand, lean toward
presenting the work as a genuine hoe-down.
I wouldn’t be without either.
The Weiner and Kodály
works were new to me. The Weiner especially
is richly melodic and played with great
affect. They are only slightly less
appealing, less gently bourgeois-friendly
than the Dohnanyi and the trio of works
makes a very good program.
Other pieces of chamber
music by Kodaly featuring the cello
are familiar to me and the whole body
of his cello chamber music is an exciting,
honourable opus, explored by Janos Starker
in the 1950s, the recordings having
been issued in North America on LPs
bearing the Period label. One might
hope that Yo-Yo Ma, once he’s had enough
of being a "personality" and
decides to be more of a musician again,
would investigate it.
This would be an excellent
gift for a person who thinks he or she
might like chamber music but has never
had the chance to get acquainted.