Friday, 10 December 2010

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, December 2010)

KODALY Cello Works
Hyperion 67829

Besides being a pioneer in music education, Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967) was active in ethnomusicology, collecting and studying the folk music of his native Hungary. Much of this folk influence may be found in his music, which has a softer grain and less aggressive edge compared with his famous compatriot Bela Bartok. This album of Kodaly’s cello music is both heartrending and enjoyable. The weighty 34-minute long Sonata for Cello Solo is a masterpiece, a 20th century response to the polyphony of Bach’s cello suites, filled with warmth and deeply-breathed gestures. Its fiery finale is a virtuosic dance of blazing intensity.

The Sonatina (with piano) was an abandoned movement from an early duo sonata, now salvaged as a stand-alone piece. Kodaly as a miniaturist is no less absorbing. The Nine Epigrams are brief minute-long bonbons, while Romance Lyrique (1898) and Adagio (1905), both early works, exude a salon-like charm. The young British cellist Natalie Clein brings a wealth of emotional responses to this highly gratifying music. Recommended without hesitation.

ROMAN Drottningholmsmusiken
Helsingborg Symphony
BIS 1602

Great occasions call for great music. The day was 28 August 1744, and the event, the royal wedding of Crown Prince Adolph Frederick of Sweden to Princess Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. The well-travelled Swedish composer Johan Helmich Roman (1694-1758), composer of the Royal Chapel and hailed as the “Father of Swedish Music” wrote 24 pieces of ceremonial music, to be performed at the royal palace of Drottningholm.

The movements, which include processionals, instrumentals, dances and marches, last between one to six minutes each. The Allegros (Nos.20-22) sound as if they came from the master George Frideric Handel himself, the epitome of grace and high culture. The Swedish orchestra under Baroque music specialist Andrew Manze performs on modern instruments, but the music sounds light and vibrant all the same. Those familiar with or tired of hearing Handel’s Music For The Royal Fireworks or Water Music will have much to enjoy in these fine and lively performances.

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