Kod‡ly, Bart—k

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Kodaly
WORKS: Dances of Galánta; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Divertimento
PERFORMER: Scottish CO/Charles Mackerras
For all their profound affinities with folk music, not to mention close friendship and a strong working relationship, the composing styles of Bartók and Kodály were widely separated. Prime exemplars are the works here:though the Dances and Music for Strings… were written just three years apart in the mid-Thirties they could hardly be more different. Kodály’s through-composed sequence is based on the gypsy verbunkos style; firmly tonal and richly melodic, it is far from the searching modernism of the Bartók, although there are more similarities between them and the more softly etched Divertimento of 1939. Charles Mackerras and the orchestra manage to be both expansive and rhythmically acute in the early pages of the Dances. The players, notably in a number of impressive solos, respond idiomatically to Kodály’s style, although not with quite the élan of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer. The particular interest of this performance of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is that the body of strings, smaller than the normal symphony orchestra, is close to that of Paul Sacher’s Basel Chamber Orchestra at the premiere. The playing in this and the Divertimento is alert and full of enthusiasm, though not always entirely homogenous in ensemble, a situation not entirely helped by the rather dry acoustic of the Usher Hall. While it is certainly good to have this smaller-scale approach, the string sound does not match that of Solti’s Chicago Symphony. Jan Smaczny