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Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)
Piano Works
Nine Piano Pieces Op.3 (1909) [21:10] (Lento [2:22]; Andante poco rubato [3:21]; Lento [3:00]; Allegretto scherzoso [1:41]; Furioso [0:56]; Moderato triste [2:38]; Allegro giacoso [1:40]; Allegretto grazioso [2:15]; Allegro commodo, burlesco [3:13])
Méditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy (1907) [5:41]
Valsette (1905) [1:27]
Seven Piano Pieces Op.11(1910-1918) [21:32] (Lento [1:30]; Transylvanian Lament [2:12]; “Il pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville” - Allegro malinconico [1:24]; Epitaph [6:20]; Tranquillo [1:39]; Transylvanian song [2:47]; Rubato [5:36])
Dances of Marosszék (1927) [11:50]
Adrienne Krausz (piano)
rec. 17-21 January 2008, Studio 6 of the Hungarian Radio. DDD
Notes by Anna Dalos
Experience Classicsonline

Piano music may not be the first genre with which one associates Kodály and in later life he made some nasty comments about the instrument.  But between 1905 and 1918 Kodály devoted a considerable part of his compositional energy to the instrument and these works were crucial both in his absorption of what were then modernist tendencies and in the establishment of his unique musical personality.
The Nine Pieces Op.3 are all heavily influenced by Debussy, whose music Kodály had become intimately familiar with while studying in Paris in 1904. Each one sets a different compositional problem: different uses of dissonance, construction of chords, chromaticism and so on. Yet several also betray the Hungarian folk element with which the composer was to become so closely identified. For me numbers 4 and 9 contain the most beautiful music, while the experimental elements of numbers 1 and 5 are impressive in a different way. Number 7 is interesting because of its use of tonality. In all these pieces Ms. Krausz shows just the proper touch for this music; her musical discrimination is admirable.
The composer actually wrote a tenth piece for Op.3, a Valsette, but published it separately. Perhaps he felt it did not fit in with the seriousness of the other pieces in the cycle. In 1907, before the creation of Op. 3 he wrote the wonderful Méditation sur un motif de Claude Debussy. The motif is a quote from Debussy’s String Quartet. This is a leaner and less chordal work than most of Op. 3 and better demonstrates the transformation of the composer’s esthetic from impressionism to folklore. Kodaly’s development of the music inherent in Debussy’s theme and his original use of the whole-tone scale make this a highlight of his early works.
In the Seven Pieces Op.11 the composer progresses from the heavy influence of Debussy to the individuality demonstrated in the famous Cello Sonatas and other chamber works. The first, a Lento, has modernistic harmonies combined with a tolling effect while the Transylvanian Lament is also harmonically adventurous, but much more folk-like, although Debussy does sneak in a little. Il pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville is obviously more like Debussy, but the underlying rhythms would not be recognized by him - Kodály is becoming Kodály. The Epitaph is the largest piece in the cycle - a profound synthesis of all that has come before, with a wonderful coda. The following two pieces are full-fledged Kodály, with the Transylvanian Song having a waterwheel effect that is almost sinister - very different from the waterwheels of other composers. Indeed almost all these pieces have a violent side to them that belies their titles and which one might not expect from familiarity with some of the composer’s other works. This aspect Ms. Krausz also brings out well, some times almost too violently. The final rubato piece has some of the most beautiful writing in the cycle and shows that the composer understood the piano well, regardless of what he may have said later in life.
The Dances of Marosszék is better known as an orchestral work. Indeed, there is some doubt whether the composer ever meant it as an independent piano work. As such the piece has a lusciousness that the orchestral version does not, although not as much flow. The use of the lower registers of the piano is very interesting, an aspect Ms. Krausz especially emphasizes. She also pays the interludes of the rondo structure very beautifully.
Adrienne Krausz graduated from the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and also with Yvonne Lefébure and Lívia Rév. She was also a protégé of Solti. On this disc she ably combines the impressionistic harmonic elements with the more violent, almost orgiastic ones. She has an excellent sense of how each piece should sound overall. Unfortunately, only a few recordings from her vast repertoire are currently available. As to recording, the miking is very close-up in this recording, which I found an advantage. The venue occasionally over-emphasized the percussive aspects of the music, but this was not a major drawback. For those looking for a modern set of Kodaly’s piano music rather than one of the classics this is a fine choice.
William Kreindler


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