Kodaly: Dances of Galánta; Háry János Suite; Dances of Marosszék

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Kodaly
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Dances of Galánta; Háry János Suite; Dances of Marosszék
PERFORMER: Magnificat & Miraculum Children’s Choirs, Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: 462 824-2
Coupling the Hary Janos Suite with Kodaly’s two highly contrasted sets of Hungarian dances, urban and rural, is a time-honoured gambit, but Fischer has had the birght idea of adding some of the composer’s children’s choruses, and instrumental movements from the seldom-heard Hary Janos Singspiel that was the ultimate source for the perennially popular suite, in order to give a broader picture of Kodaly, both as musician and musical humorist. On the whole it works well: the Singspiel extracts are very slight, but the choruses are highly characteristic – and flawlessly sung by superbly disciplined childrens’ choirs trained, inevitably, in the ‘Kodaly Method’.

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Nevertheless the three principal orchestral works remain the point for buying the disc, and these are very vivid, exciting interpretations. Fischer comes up against stiff competition in Antal Dorati’s classic 1973 recording of Hary and the dance-suites with the Philharmonia Hungarica. Dorati is ‘straighter’ in his readings of the pieces than Fischer, and the playing packs a tremendous punch: he also adds the Peacock Variations as coupling, and thus probably still remains the first choice. But Fischer has his own view of the music: his tempo-fluctuations always feel idiomatic, perhaps eventually more gypsy-like and improvisatory. He also pays admirable attention to instrumental colour and detail and benefits from a really first-rate recording from Philips. Perhaps the unusual fillers will persuade buyers to add this as a second version, and for those new to Kodaly it makes a very effective, broad-based introduction. Calum MacDonald