Kodaly: Háry János Suite; Dances of Marosszék; Variations on a Hungarian Folksong ‘The Peacock’; Dances of Galánta

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COMPOSERS: Kodaly
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Háry János Suite; Dances of Marosszék; Variations on a Hungarian Folksong ‘The Peacock’; Dances of Galánta
PERFORMER: Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 444 322-2 DDD
The clarinet solo near the beginning of the Dances of Galánta has been justly described as one of the most hauntingly beautiful tunes ever written for the instrument. But this performance does not quite live up to the description. The clarinettist Emilio Iacurto seems to have little patience with the voluptuous melodic contours, preferring a brisk, matter-of-fact pace, which masks the folk origins of the piece with clinical austerity. This would scarcely matter if it were the only unsympathetic moment on a disc generously filled with almost all the orchestral music by Kodály that you are ever likely to come across. But elsewhere, much of the charm and originality of Kodály’s vibrant orchestral technique seem to have been concealed beneath a virtuosic gloss.

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Another example arises in Háry János. The extraordinary propulsion of the Intermezzo, which jangles along to the intoxicating sound of the cimbalom, should have you leaping from your seat. Here, it is stately and noisy, but not very exciting. In the Dances of Marosszék, the great heaving melody should beckon seductively with oriental spice, but Dutoit makes it sound like Brahms. If all this sounds dismal, it is not. Excellent playing and a rich sound go a long way to making up for a lack of imaginative sparkle. Christopher Lambton