Author Topic: Kodály's Covert Clan  (Read 8594 times)

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Offline Lethevich

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Kodály's Covert Clan
« on: March 21, 2009, 07:13:40 AM »
Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967), Hungarian. A contemporary of Bartók, he wrote in a similar style, but is generally considered a lesser composer. None the less, there must be plenty of gems to discover.

Thus far I have heard the two string quartets, both of which are recommendable to fans of the early-mid 20th century 'rugged tonal' style and a disc of cello music on Naxos, which I found surprisingly drab, despite his reputation as a master cellist. It probably merits some relistens...

I have the following CD in the mail, after several recommendations attesting to it being a superb set of performances and it seems a fine introduction to those interested in this composer:



Any other fans, or recommendable introductions to his music?
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nut-job

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2009, 07:32:34 AM »
I also had those quartets and suites for solo cello, which I found dreary.  If you have the pair of CDs shown you have enough Kodaly to last a lifetime, IMO.  If you don't have them, you're living a wasted life.   

You can lock the thread now, there is nothing further to say about Kodaly, I'm afraid.  ;D


Offline Guido

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2009, 09:02:07 AM »
The Naxos CD is not the best place to hear his cello works I'm afraid. The Solo cello sonata is one of the masterpieces for the instrument, probably the greatest solo cello piece after the Bach Suites. It was the first major composition for solo cello since the Bach Suites. The cellist accompanies herself, playing all parts and is converted into a chamber ensemble of one - every single colouristic possibility of the time is exploited and put into a framework of astonishing power, beauty and intensity. It's a really major work. There are many fine versions on record - Janos Starker's pioneering recording is always cited as the favourite, but I am also very fond of Antony Cooke too.

The cello sonata is in many ways just as fine, though just not so revolutionary. There is a fantastic cello sonatine too.
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Renfield

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2009, 09:28:45 AM »
I vote for Kodály's Clandestine Communion! :D

And in fact, all this rooting for that double-Decca set is making me seriously consider it. I don't think I've heard any Kodály.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2009, 09:50:30 AM »
I thoroughly enjoy Kodaly's bright, colourful, tuneful blend of folk-inspired romanticism :)

While it is perfectly true to say that a double cd set which contains the Hary Janos Suite, the Peacock Variations, the Dances of Galanta and the Dances of Marosszek-four of Kodaly's most attractive, brilliantly orchestrated pieces-along with the under-rated Concerto for Orchestra and the less impressive Symphony will give you virtually all Kodaly's orchestral works you will be missing out on his three great choral compositions.

The 'Psalmus Hungaricus' of 1923, the Budavari Te Deum of 1936 and the Missa Brevis of 1944/51) are tremendous works, dramatic, powerful, exuberant. The 'Psalmus Hungaricus' is the most famous of the three-although even then not known as much as it should be-but the other two are, in my opinion, equally fine and well worth searching out.

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2009, 10:17:43 AM »
I'm very surprised at this distaste for/boredom with the cello music (no suites amongst it, nut-job) - it's the first I have ever read, and I've probably read quite a lot about these pieces over the years, as I love them very much I have multiple versions of most of them. It's music which I've only ever seen praised to the hilt, superlatives abounding, as Guido has done. And as Guido says, the solo cello sonata is simply the finest writing for the (solo) instrument after Bach, (with IMO Britten's Cello Suites also in the running). 'Boring', I would have thought, would be the last possible adjective to apply to a piece which pushes the performer to his limits to such an unprecedented extent and to such great effect. So I'd advise those who haven't heard any Kodaly to take the opinions of the cello music at the top of this thread with a large bag of salt - though by their nature opinions can't be argued with it is possible in this case to say that they are remarkably unrepresentative!

The solo sonata is often paired with the violin/cello duo and, though I don't find it quite as compelling as the cello solo piece, that's one well worth hearing too, FWIW

Offline The new erato

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2009, 12:25:13 PM »
Count me in as a fan of Kodalys solo cello music too.

Offline Guido

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2009, 03:28:38 PM »
In general, he was like a Schubert, but with strings - the less intruments he writes for, the better the music! The orchestral works have thus far left me cold.

For solo cello there is also a very spiffy and rarely played Cappriccio - his talent for solo string writing shows through here again, but this one is a bonbon.

Agreed that the sonata for violin and cello is also fantastic, and the only one I have come accross that can hold a candle to Ravel's effort in the genre.

I have an intermezzo for string trio, and I think there's a serenade too which is meant to be great.
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nut-job

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2009, 04:43:00 PM »
The Naxos CD is not the best place to hear his cello works I'm afraid. The Solo cello sonata is one of the masterpieces for the instrument, probably the greatest solo cello piece after the Bach Suites. It was the first major composition for solo cello since the Bach Suites. The cellist accompanies herself, playing all parts and is converted into a chamber ensemble of one - every single colouristic possibility of the time is exploited and put into a framework of astonishing power, beauty and intensity. It's a really major work. There are many fine versions on record - Janos Starker's pioneering recording is always cited as the favourite, but I am also very fond of Antony Cooke too.

The cello sonata is in many ways just as fine, though just not so revolutionary. There is a fantastic cello sonatine too.

I have the solo cello sonata on the Naxos release, which interested me enough to motivate me to get another, a recording on Harmonia Mundi France.  Neither really convinced me.  Quite likely a better performance would help.  Excerpts I found of a Starker recording online seemed worse than what I have (never was a big Starker enthusiast) but excerpts of this one appealed more.



http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000DN5XCY/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance

It's music which I've only ever seen praised to the hilt, superlatives abounding, as Guido has done.

You never know what marvels a new day will bring.

Offline rickardg

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2009, 05:16:11 AM »


I have this and really enjoy it (if 'enjoy' is the right word for music like this). I can't make a recommendation though since it's all I've ever heard of Kodaly. It does bring Bartok to mind, which of course is a good thing. :-)

Offline Guido

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2009, 10:57:14 AM »
I have this and really enjoy it (if 'enjoy' is the right word for music like this).

And why wouldn't it be?!

I don't understand all this negativity! The Kodaly is the only piece in the solo cello repertoire that I've seen someone being given a standing ovation for - such was the enjoyment of the audience!
Geologist.

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Offline rickardg

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2009, 12:30:31 PM »
And why wouldn't it be?!

Well, it isn't all sunshine and butterflies is it? Touching and powerful music but enjoyable in the same way as, let's say, winter swimming or marathon running. IMHO, naturally...

I don't understand all this negativity!

I didn't mean to sound negative but I suppose I phrased myself poorly: I like this disk and the works on it very much, but I don't feel comfortable making a recommendation not having heard any alternatives (or anything else by Kodaly).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2009, 04:02:06 PM »
I am puzzled and perplexed by this thread so far!

I just find it hard to accept that so few people seem familiar with some of the most exciting, tuneful, colourful music of the 20th century.

The Hary Janos Suite used to be a more popular work than I suppose it is now but it has been described as "one of the most accomplished and satisfying orchestral showpiece orchestral suites of the 20th century". In the performances I have on disc-Solti and Dorati-it is immense fun and hugely enjoyable. If you don't know it then I very strongly recommend the work!! If you love, say, Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije you will love Hary Janos :)

nut-job

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2009, 04:11:49 PM »
I am puzzled and perplexed by this thread so far!

I just find it hard to accept that so few people seem familiar with some of the most exciting, tuneful, colourful music of the 20th century.

The Hary Janos Suite used to be a more popular work than I suppose it is now but it has been described as "one of the most accomplished and satisfying orchestral showpiece orchestral suites of the 20th century". In the performances I have on disc-Solti and Dorati-it is immense fun and hugely enjoyable. If you don't know it then I very strongly recommend the work!! If you love, say, Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije you will love Hary Janos :)

I am perplexed by your perplexity.  I didn't see any disparaging remarks about the orchestral music, which has been praised without exception in the board in the last day or so.  It was only the cello sonata which was described as a "room clearer" by Lethe.  I find the work obtuse, but I've ordered the recording reference above (based on favorable notices and a favorable impression of excerpts).  Maybe that will do the trick for me.  But expressions of astonishment that we don't like Kodaly more than we do doesn't make a terrible compelling argument.   :-\

sul G

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2009, 04:16:32 PM »
I don't recall the phrase 'room clearer'...

FWIW, I think Kodaly's orchestral music is just great. But IMO it doesn't stand out from the orchestral pack as his cello music does in its respective repertoire.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2009, 04:32:08 PM »
I am perplexed by your perplexity.  I didn't see any disparaging remarks about the orchestral music, which has been praised without exception in the board in the last day or so.  It was only the cello sonata which was described as a "room clearer" by Lethe.  I find the work obtuse, but I've ordered the recording reference above (based on favorable notices and a favorable impression of excerpts).  Maybe that will do the trick for me.  But expressions of astonishment that we don't like Kodaly more than we do doesn't make a terrible compelling argument.   :-\

Having gone back and re-read all of the posts on this thread I can only find praise for the orchestral works from myself and from yourself so far. No one else appears to have heard the orchestral music or be prepared to praise it-although Luke has done so since you added your most recent post.

You suggested in your first post that the thread could be locked as "there was nothing more to say". I appreciate that this was a light-hearted comment but there was, of course, more to say. I raised the subject, for example, of Kodaly's choral music-which no one else has yet commented on.

"Expressions of astonishment" is perhaps a little strong to describe my 'perplexity' but can I just say that I would not wish to characterise my 'surprise' as an 'argument'. It isn't; it is an expression of surprise ;D

nut-job

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2009, 04:53:40 PM »
I see the source of the misunderstanding.  The discussion of Kodaly is a continuation of some discussion that took place on the "Orchestral Dances" thread where Kodaly's Dances of Galanta came up

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,11695.msg288817.html#msg288817

« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 04:59:44 PM by nut-job »

Offline Benji

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2009, 04:58:14 PM »
Having gone back and re-read all of the posts on this thread I can only find praise for the orchestral works from myself and from yourself so far. No one else appears to have heard the orchestral music or be prepared to praise it-although Luke has done so since you added your most recent post.

Allow me!

I absolutely love Kodály's orchestral music. The Peacock Variations and Dances of Gálanta I listen to perhaps once a week because they are so superbly endlessly tuneful and expertly-crafted they make me feel really good!  ;D

And Háry János should indeed be much better-known. It's worth listening to for the amazing sound of the cimbalon alone, an instrument I wish was more frequently utilised (Howard Shore used it to great effect in the music to the Lord of the Rings films, mostly in reference to Golum's character).

Since i'm plugging Mr Szell this month, I heartily recommend this disc, which has what many say (and i'm inclined to agree of course!) is the best version of each of the respective pieces on the disc:


Offline Lethevich

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2009, 06:29:42 PM »
Hehe, re. the "room-clearer" thing - it is partially due to the perceived austerity of the cello as a solo instrument. My friends aren't big classical fans, and this form is rather opposed to the kind of classical a non-convert can enjoy.

I suspect my negative reactions to the cello music may be the performance, but I doubt that it is that bad - I'll just give it some relistens at some point. Opinions are always under review :P
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Kodály's Covert Clan
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2009, 05:03:47 PM »
I see the source of the misunderstanding.  The discussion of Kodaly is a continuation of some discussion that took place on the "Orchestral Dances" thread where Kodaly's Dances of Galanta came up

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,11695.msg288817.html#msg288817



Ah...I hadn't seen that thread! Thanks for the clarification :)