Kodaly: Symphony; Summer Evening; Hungarian Rondo

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Kodaly
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Symphony; Summer Evening; Hungarian Rondo
PERFORMER: Philharmonia/Yondani Butt
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 924 DDD
My first reaction to this new ASV reading of a neglected symphony with appealing Sibelian echoes was oddly negative. Exposed string sections are dire; there is a slightly tinny feel. Some promising pacings generate later sclerosis, and Butt milks too many passages: the result can be an assault.

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Summer Evening, a chocolate-boxy miniature that might be Bax-Moeran-Delius, begins gorgeously but gets a pretty good pasting latterly, as the sound goes thin. The Hungarian Rondo, despite charming solos, might have earned a tauter performance from Mantovani.

So, is it all bad? What gives this ASV version hope is the splendid Philharmonia wind section: superb paired clarinets (with plangent solos in the Andante), clear oboe, brilliant flute roulades to offset some increasingly tiresome tutti. It is equally effective, alongside rampant brass, in the Borodin-Bartók alternations of the finale (treated as a joyous romp).

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Dorati’s reading, reissued on Double Decca (443 006-2), has more direction, is more poised, more varied, more Magyar, and more than twice the value (150 minutes as against 54 minutes here). Still, if you hanker after a raunchy, rather over-the-top, cosmopolitan sound, you might prefer this one. Full marks for adventure: this symphony needs championing. Somewhat less for clarity and taste. Roderic Dunnett