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CD Review

Zoltan Kodály

Naxos 8.573838
  • Dances of Galánta
  • Concerto for Orchestra
  • Variations on a Hungarian Folk Song (Peacock Variations)
  • Dances of Marosszék
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573838 77:17
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Thanks to Naxos, and presumably to the Buffalo Philharmonic management, JoAnn Falletta and her main orchestra are surely [at least among] the most recorded musicians today, and this is a well-deserved distinction. ArkivMusic lists work by fifty-nine composers recorded by Falletta, many of them living, with various orchestras, and about a fourth of them American.

An outstanding quality of Falletta's conducting is that she seems always to select the right tempos, which contributes to the clarity of her phrasing and thus the satisfaction of the results for the listener. That is certainly the case here. Naxos' engineering is of high quality, enhancing any solos. On this disc, flute solos and at least one horn solo, are especially striking.

The two dance suites open and close this generous collection of Kodály's orchestral music. The Album title is Concerto for Orchestra, but Dances of Galánta is what you hear first and it is a wonderful performance. The Concerto for Orchestra is the least often recorded of these pieces, and, in my experience, it takes getting used to. Much shorter and much less popular that Bartok's slightly later Concerto for Orchestra, Bartok brought his countryman's piece with him to the U.S. when he came to America early in World War II. It does have some very nice melody, but does not show off the orchestra any better than Kodály's Dances of Galánta, and some of the orchestral textures are dense.

The Peacock Variations have long been one of my favorite works, of any era or place of origin, and they are one of the very greatest sets of orchestral variations ever written. Although I have had the pleasure of hearing them in concert, I wish they were more frequently performed. Meanwhile, this fine version is very welcome. There are available quite a number of recordings of the Dances of Marosszék, but I have to admit this is the first I have ever heard them, and they are a welcome addition to this generously timed collection. Definitely recommended!

Copyright © 2018, R. James Tobin