Kurt‡g, Kod‡ly, Veress

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Kodaly,Kurtag,Veress
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Jelek II – Árnyak – Az hit; Pilinszky János; In memoriam Aczèl György
PERFORMER: Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello); Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901735
This programme of 20th-century Hungarian music is largely for unaccompanied cello, merely mid-punctuated and ended by two short Kodály movements with piano. The scale of the other items ranges from the minuscule – Kurtág’s various tiny, passionate aphorisms – to the epic: Kodály’s Solo Sonata can hold its head up in any modern programme as one of the most staggering cello works of the 20th century. Sándor Veress, pupil of Bartók and teacher of Kurtág, provides the link between the generations of the early and the late century. His own Solo Sonata, not without Bachian and 12-note elements, is an estimable piece, most affecting in the austerely melancholic slow movement.

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Jean-Guihen Queyras, principal cellist of the Ensemble InterContemporain, infuses all this technically demanding music with ardent expressiveness and dazzling rhythmic drive. He has an alert, vibrant tone which seems at first to steer him clear of sentiment, but the final track – Kodály’s early Adagio, by far the most Romantic piece on the disc – reveals a player with plenty of heart as well. If his supremely confident delivery of the Kodály Sonata doesn’t quite banish memories of Janos Starker’s pioneering accounts, this is still a very exciting, high-pressure reading of a masterpiece that can take many different approaches. Altogether an intelligently laid-out disc, with interesting repertoire and magnificent playing and recording. Calum MacDonald