Kodály: String Quartets – No 1, Op 2; No 2, Op 10; Intermezzo; Gavotte

Reviewed on Thu 24 Apr, 2014

Kodály's ambitiously large-scale First Quartet is a curate’s egg. Despite a slow movement of real expressive breadth (the emotional heart of the piece), the last movement outstays its welcome and its foursquare, conventionally harmonised theme for variations is a disappointment when it arrives. The piece as a whole, however (together with the early Intermezzo), should be of real interest to those tracing the development of the young Kodály as he processed French (particularly Debussy – he studied briefly in Paris), Germano-Austrian and indigenous folk influences on his style, a task similarly addressed by his close friend Bartók. One of the results, seven years later, was the incisive Second Quartet, an authentically Hungarian masterwork, tautly constructed and clearly bearing the composer's own voice; you can almost smell the paprikás in the final, pungent Allegro giocoso. The Dante Quartet are completely persuasive in this repertoire, and the intimate acoustic of Potton Hall, Dunwich complements them perfectly. Highly recommended.
–Chris Achenbach