Dante Quartet

Zoltán Kodály: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2; Intermezzo; Gavotte

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Zoltán Kodály's two string quartets have languished in the shadow of the six string quartets of his compatriot, colleague, and friend, Béla Bartók. While modest attention has been paid to them in concert and on recordings since the 1990s, they are still regarded as less innovative than Bartók's quartets, and less ground-breaking, not merely because they use the same Hungarian folk idioms as sources, but also because they show the strong pull of Debussy, Ravel, and Richard Strauss. In fairness, if Kodály's quartets are compared only with the first two of Bartók's, they hold up rather well, for they are quite similar in feeling and flavor, share many of the same influences, and are easily appreciated as "young man's music," because of their ardor and urgency. The Intermezzo for string trio and the Gavotte for three violins and cello are brief pieces that show Kodály's relaxed side, one cast as a post-Romantic reverie with Magyar inflections, and the other as a neo-Classical dance that changes keys at nearly every phrase. While none of the pieces on this 2013 Hyperion recording are earth-shattering in their significance, the Dante Quartet imbues them with enough elegance and charm to make them enjoyable, and the reproduction captures the group's warm tone and the studio's resonant acoustics.

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