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Kodály • Ligeti: Cello Sonatas, etc

Gabriel Schwabe (cello), Hellen Weiss (violin) (Naxos)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Kodály • Ligeti
Kodály: Solo Cello Sonata, Op. 8; Duo for Violin and Celo, Op. 7*; Ligeti: Solo Cello Sonata
Gabriel Schwabe (cello), *Hellen Weiss (violin)
Naxos 8.574202   65:16 mins


Was there ever another month like May 1918 in Budapest’s musical life? Famous for having produced the premiere of Bartók’s opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, it also heard, some two and a half weeks earlier, the premiere of Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello, one of the masterpieces of the repertoire. In some respects a modern response to Bach’s solo suites, it also reflected the composer’s interest in Hungarian folk music and Gabriel Schwabe’s dark-coloured performance shows that: he digs in deep, producing sounds that are rough-hewn in the best possible sense. He commands its substantial structures yet plays with unfettered freedom.

In turn, Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello is an obvious tribute to Kodály. Despite it being an early work, and one in which the spirit of Bach is also never far away, the communists forbade performances until 1979. Its two short movements inspire wonderfully committed playing from Schwabe.

The tonal palette here is expanded by the inclusion of Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, in which Schwabe’s musicianship is matched by that of Hellen Weiss. Premiered on the same occasion as the Solo Sonata and somewhat overshadowed by it, this is also important music and – in the hands of such players – essential listening.


John Allison