WORKS: Solo Cello Sonata, Op. 8; Sonatina; 9 Epigrams; Romance Lyrique; Adagio
PERFORMER: Natalie Clein (cello), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67829
Zoltán Kodály’s long life (1882-1967) is mirrored in the wide span of works on this excellent new release. More than half a century separates the early Romance lyrique of 1898 and the Nine Epigrams of 1954, a period in which Kodály (along with Bartók) set about collecting folk music from the remotest corners of Hungary.
In his perceptive notes accompanying this release, Calum MacDonald compares Kodály with Vaughan Williams as two great national composers who played a broad role in society.
Little of that folk spirit is heard in the earliest work here, really a salon piece, but it and the slightly later Adagio (Kodály’s first official chamber music) both benefit from the warm and sensitive partnership of Natalie Clein and Julius Drake. The miniature Epigrams, pieces that sound like less edgy Bartók while having their own originality, are also touchingly done.
But the compelling reason for acquiring this disc, which does not attempt to be a complete survey of Kodály’s cello music, is Clein’s magnificent account of the Solo Sonata, Op. 8. One of the masterpieces of the cello repertory, it opens with massive, declamatory chords, and Clein’s depth of tone makes an immediate impact on this well-engineered recording.
A wartime work dating from 1915, this is sombre music that finds space for folk-inflected ruminations – at one point in the central Adagio even conjuring up the dusky sound of the cimbalom. A must-have disc. John Allison