Kod‡ly, Britten

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COMPOSERS: Britten,Kodaly
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8; Cello Suite No. 1; Tema ‘Sacher’
PERFORMER: Henrik Dam Thomsen (cello)
Zoltán Kodály’s Sonata for solo cello of 1915 is an astonishing piece, more than half an hour long, but of unflagging invention and remarkable richness of sound – thanks in part to the lowering of the two bottom strings by a semitone, which opens up unexpected chordal possibilities. The young Danish cellist Henrik Dam Thomsen surmounts most of its considerable technical problems with apparent ease, but his range of colours and dynamics is occasionally constricted, he sometimes seems lacking in energy and he doesn’t always give weight to the downbeats in the idiomatic manner of Hungarian music (and speech). There are also a few rhythmic vagaries so closely resembling those on the 1970 recording by János Starker, one of Thomsen’s teachers, as to suggest some not yet fully digested influence. But in Starker’s case these are a convincing part of an interpretation matured over many years, simultaneously rhapsodic and urgent. Thomsen’s disc, well recorded and presented, also includes two pieces by Benjamin Britten: the late, slight theme for a composite set of variations on the name of the conductor and patron Paul Sacher; and the First Cello Suite of 1964 – another work of considerable substance, inventiveness and tonal richness. Once again, the performance is accomplished but just lacking in impetus: the pizzicato ‘Serenata’ not quite scurrying, the ‘Marcia’ not quite strutting. In a crowded field, this doesn’t eclipse the splendidly purposeful account in Jean-Guihen Queyras’s recording of all three suites. But Thomsen is highly talented and we shall undoubtedly be hearing more of him. Anthony Burton