The eminent Kodály
Quartet with this seventh volume has now completed its Schubert
Quartet cycle, joining their previous Naxos sets of the complete
string quartets of Haydn and Beethoven.
There are five scores,
three of which were left incomplete, were composed early in Schubert’s
career. Few would claim these chamber scores as masterworks but
these fascinating off-cuts from the apprentice’s workbench deserve
Kodály trace their origins from meeting as students in 1966
at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest when they were
then known as the Sebestyén Quartet. In 1970 they became known
as the Kodály Quartet, a change that required official Government
approval. Three of the Kodálys: violinist Tomás Sazbó; violist
Gábor Fias and cellist János Devich had previously been Sebestyén
Quartet members. The last original member Tomás Sazbó retired
in 2006 after forty years service. Attila Falvay who joined
the Kodálys in 1980 now leads the current line-up.
have been highly prolific in the recording studio and made their
reputation with the immense Naxos cycle of the ‘Complete String
Quartets’ of Haydn in Budapest between 1991-2000; The cycle
is available on single discs or as part of a 23 disc budget-price
set on Naxos 8.502301. Despite personnel changes, on the evidence
of these convincing performances, the Kodálys continue to uphold
the greatest standards of the rich Hungarian string quartet
opening work is the rarely heard Movement in C minor for
String Quartet, D.103 from 1814. Known
as the Quartettsatz, the score is a curiosity since it consists of a single incomplete movement.
The C minor, D.103 score
is not to be confused with the String
Quartet in C minor,
D.703 (1820) that is also commonly known as the Quartettsatz.
Schubert, it seems, intended the D.103 score
as a first movement to a full-length quartet that is no longer
extant. The incomplete score has a slow and dark introduction
then the mood lightens in sonata form. I love the way the Kodálys
play with vigour and spirit in edgy, restless music - a young
String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, D.68 is an unfinished
score from 1813 consisting of two outer Allegro movements.
There is a high-spirited opening given here with gusto and biting
attack and an enjoyable closing movement in the form of an Haydnesque
Rondo that is played with an infectious jauntiness, accentuating
the spiky rhythms.
String Trio, D.471 was composed in 1816. The B flat
major score for violin, viola and cello consists of an opening
Allegro movement together with a fragmentary second movement
marked Andante sostenuto that Schubert abandoned after
only 39 bars. Here the Kodálys impress with attractive and expressive
playing.. It’s not crucial but I would have liked the Andante
sostenuto fragment to have been included.
unusual and seldom-heard score the Five Minuets with six
Trios for String Quartet, D.89 was composed in 1813. The
first and fifth Minuets each has two trios, although;
second and fourth Minuets lack a trio. Disappointingly
the Kodálys in the Minuet No. 1 are laboured, lacking in vitality and lightness of touch, although, they
seem bright and lively in the short Minuet No. 2. They
are stately and sophisticated in the Minuet No. 3; skilfully
revealing the dance-like qualities of the Minuet No. 4 providing
a rustic, weighty character to the Minuet No. 5.
closing score is the Overture in C minor for String Quintet;
D.8 is an early work dating from 1811. Rich and characterful,
the Overture in C minor in this performance assuredly
contrast anger and agitation with vernal frolics.
Kodály bring this Schubert series to a fine close with admirable
performances. The cool and reasonably clear sound is of an acceptable
standard as were the booklet notes. These are not by any stretch
of the imagination indispensable scores for a chamber music
collection but interesting and rewarding nevertheless.
see also Review
by Patrick Waller