Hungarian Treasures – Bartók: Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 20; Dohnányi: Piano Quartet in F sharp minor; Kodály: Intermezzo for string trio

Reviewed on Tue 21 Mar, 2017

Bartók’s C minor Piano Quartet, as played by the Notos Quartet from the autograph score, was penned by a post-Brahmsian 17-year-old, and the aroma of Bartókian paprika begins to emerge, and then only fleetingly, in the finale.

Bartók’s C minor Piano Quartet shouldn’t be confused with his rather better-known C major Piano Quintet of roughly five years later. The work, as played by the Notos Quartet from the autograph score, was penned by a post-Brahmsian 17-year-old, and the aroma of Bartókian paprika begins to emerge, and then only fleetingly, in the finale. Mind you, once into the movement, Bartók stands aside to admit Dvořák’s unmistakable influence. It's an engaging piece, the sum of other peoples’ parts rather than of its own, but the playing is excellent and the recorded balance allows the viola due prominence when needed. Dohnányi was also in his late teens when he wrote his F sharp minor Piano Quartet but was further into his own zone than was Bartók at a similar same age, although the spirit of Franck infuses the Quartet’s opening and maybe Saint-Saëns the scherzo. Again, it’s Brahms whose influence proves the most pervasive. Kodály’s pleasant Intermezzo for string trio dates from around the period when he started collecting local folk melodies. The Notos see it as a transition or interlude between the Dohnányi and Bartók pieces, and it serves that purpose well. All in all, a finely played tutorial focusing on the early years of two exceptionally gifted composers, and one true master.
–Rob Cowan