This is an highly enterprising CD. Unlike the Dances of Marosszek, the other works on this disc are relatively little known (and recorded no more than a handful of occassions). Like the overture to Nielsen's opera "Maskarade", the Theater Overture (to Hary Janos) convey, with great effectiveness, the entire scheme & blueprints of the theatrical work & conductors were right in treating the Overture as an independent piece. The Overture is remarkably vivid & virtuosic, somewhat inheriting pinches of the Offenbachian wittiness & sparkle.
Equally inventive is the Concerto for Orchestra (1941). As with Myaskovsky's 21st Symphony & Sir William Walton's Scapino, Kodaly's Concerto was written by commission of the Chicago Symphony (which was celebrating it's jubilee anniversary). Interesting enough, both works of Myaskovsky & Kodaly share one common trait: variations in tempi (Myaskovsky's with six contrasting sections, Kodaly's with five), with the slow sections especially meditative, lucid, and to an extent melancholic. But, where Myaskovsky's instrumentation is straightforward, Kodaly uses solo instrumental groups against larger orchestral forces & adds to the appeal of this work.
The Symhpony in C Major (1961) is tuneful & attractive, thematically coherent & well argued, but not among Kodaly's stronger works. The first two movements are compelling & the second is meditative & undeniably Hungarian in its sense of nostalgia (a homage to the past of sorts). However, the finale is a bit empty, with the thematic ideas not as strong & memorable as in the previous two movements (or in his works of the 1920s through the 1940s).
Yan Pascal Tortelier & the BBC Philharmonic are wholly at home with these works. Their performances were vivid as well as convicted & enthusiasm is in every way noticeable throughout (especially in the Theater Overture & the Concerto). What I also find pleasing is the feeling behind their playing. Not only is there enthusiasm, but there's joy & admiration of the works & of Kodaly behind these recordings & I'm especially awed at their sense of not treating the works less than substantial. Indeed, the works painted a more rounded picture of Kodaly & Yan Pascal Tortelier & his team never ran the risks messing up the picture (as in the recordings of Dorati & even Arpad Joo).
Well advocated & well recorded, as always from Chandos.