WORKS: Rondo; Summer Evening; Serenade, Op. 6
PERFORMER: Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 447 Hungarian 109-2 DDD
The Serenade was the work with which Josef Suk established his international career. He was just 18 when he composed it, and Brahms was impressed enough to recommend his publisher to issue it. It is a charmingly unpretentious work, offering no hint of the much darker forces that were to erupt scarcely more than a decade later in Suk’s gigantic Asrael Symphony.
Kodály’s Summer Evening is also an early work. Originally written as a graduate piece, it was later revised for a New York performance given by Toscanini. (What that autocratic maestro would have made of the notion of a conductorless performance, as here, is difficult to imagine.) As its title would suggest, it is an atmospheric piece – too long, perhaps, to sustain its rather thin material, but pleasant enough. As for the Hungarian Rondo, it is based on the type of gypsy melodies Kodály’s compatriot Bartók studiously avoided.
The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra perform this repertoire with all the finesse we have come to expect of them – indeed, it could be argued that the playing is at times almost too polished, and that a little earthiness would not have come amiss. Still, with playing this accomplished it would be churlish to complain. Enjoyable. Misha Donat