Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today's Birthday - Zoltán Kodály - String Quartets No.1 and No. 2 - Gavotte for Three Violins and Cello - The Kontra Quartet - BIS 1994

There is a certain birthday today that is the mother-of-all-birthdays so to speak. Anyone think they know who it could be?? ;) 

As much as I'd love to post dear Ludwig's String Quartets, which is what I would post if I did-I am simply too bushed from the day I have had. That said, I have been meaning to post Kodály's String Quartets anyhow so today is most appropriate, and this I have time for. It's also nice to hear Kodály in chamber mode, instead of his well-known (and glorious!!) orchestral works. The String Quartets are barely played if at all, in fact I cannot think of a single concert over the years that featured either Quartet..so perhaps it's not "barely" but "never" that describes the rate
of performance. I believe there are currently at least 4 available recordings of these Quartets, but I could be incorrect. All I know is I love this disc with the Kontra Quartet.

The great Hungarian was born today, December 16, 1882 and died March 6, 1967.
In the chamber works recorded here we can hear an unwavering desire to place genuine Hungarian folk music (rather than the ‘style hongrois’ espoused by the Strauss family and many other composers) within classical music traditions. Bartók wrote of his compatriot that "if I were to name the composer whose works are the most perfect embodiment of the Hungarian spirit, I would answer, Kodály". 'Nuff said.

Kodály’s first quartet absorbs and recreates Hungarian folk music in an entirely approachable idiom with plenty of youthful amours and technical elan, which makes the vitriol thrown at it by contemporary critics hard to comprehend. The String Quartet No. 2 has no direct quotations of Hungarian folk music, but its character retains a distinctly pungent flavour which could come from virtually nowhere else, though fans of Janáček’s quartets like myself will no doubt enjoy this one as well. Kodály and Janáček share a use of speech patterns in their music, and there are little touches everywhere which suggest some kind of cross-pollination. Both of these quartets are essential for any Kodály fan and deserve repeated listenings. And while they don’t share Bartók’s white-hot creative extremes they are both pieces which reward at every level.

Gramophone's take on the Quartets:

Kodály’s two string quartets tend to linger under the shadow of the mighty ‘six pack’ that his compatriot Bartók wrote over a period of some 30 years. True, their language is less outspoken than Bartók’s and their expressive range is less adventurous, but they deserve more attention than they’ve so far received. The Second Quartet (1916 18) is the one closest in spirit and style to Kodály’s instrumental masterpiece, his Solo Cello Sonata, Op 8 (1915). And yet its angular, contrapuntally tangled opening anticipates Bartók’s Fourth Quartet by some 10 years. The folk element that both composers held so close to their hearts is most evident in the second and third movements, the former also alluding to Bartók’s haunting ‘night music’ episodes.

I’d say that overall Kodály’s style more approximates his compatriots Dohnányi or even Miklós Rózsa than Bartók, the shimmering closing minutes of the 1909 First Quartet’s Lento assai (from 9'05" into tr 2) alluding unmistakably to Dohnányi’s Serenade in C for string trio, which was composed five years earlier. The two shorter works make for attractive makeweights, the 1905 Intermezzo for string trio recalling the Russian school (Borodin in the outer sections, Shostakovich-in-embryo in the Trio), whereas the Gavotte suggests a Delian brand of melancholy. The gutsy Kontra Quartet (BIS) offer fine readings of both quartets.

Track list:

String Quartet No.1 in C minor, Op.2

1. I. Andante poco rubato - Allegro 11'50
2. II. Lento assai, tranquillo 13'33
3. III. Presto - Più moderato - Presto 4'23
4. IV. Allegro - Allegretto semplice - Adagio - Allegretto - Allegro - Allegro grazioso - Presto - Andante espressivo - Vivace - Presto 12'58

5. Gavotte for three violins and cello 2'31

String Quartet No.2, Op.10

6. I. Allegro 5'29
7. II. Andante quasi recit. - Andante con moto - Allegro giocoso 12'03




Anonymous said...

Köszönöm szépen!

Tzadik said...

Helló akkor nagyon szívesen! Élvezze a zenét

theblueamos said...

Sublime!Thank you very much.Never heared of the Kontra's,or at least I wasn't aware they played so beautifully.I also enjoyed Gould__La_Montaine_Flute_Concertos.so another big thank you.All the very best from Jerusalem.

Tzadik said...

t.b.a. happy you enjoyed the Kodaly :) and the Flute Concertos, thanks as always for your warm comments

Tzadik said...

OK...who in their right mind finds Kodaly's quartets to be dreadful?? It is a free country/world after all, but geeez how finicky! ha

Paul Terry said...

I had to come back and comment on this one. I keep reaching for this one to play it. SO BEAUTIFUL! Thanks so much for turning me on to this wonderful music.