The music of the now nonagenarian composer György Kurtág is difficult: atonal, elliptical, and breathtakingly concise. You're encouraged to acquire the texts by soprano Susan Narucki that accompany this Avie release: she has worked closely with Kurtág, in Hungary, on the interpretation of these songs, and her readings may be regarded as definitive. She puts across how Kurtág's songs, more than embodying a relationship between text and music, constitute a heroic attempt to weld the two, through the use of extremely detailed instructions in the score, into a single unit. Small though they are, they may be regarded as virtuoso works. A good way into them is to sample the Attila Jószef Fragments, Op. 20, which clocks in at just 12 minutes plus for 20 songs. Each one is an aphoristic reflection, expressed musically with great subtlety and specificity. Narucki is backed effectively by pianist Donald Berman, a contemporary music specialist, and a few other chamber instruments including a cimbalom. Certainly not everyone's cup of Tokay, but recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim