Zoltán Kodály

Sonata for cello & piano, Op. 4

    Description by James Reel

    Kodály was already an avid folk music collector when he began writing this sonata, and the work's melodies are redolent of Hungarian folk song, while the harmonies evoke the Impressionism of Debussy. Kodály intended this sonata to fall into the usual three movements, but he withheld the first, with which he was never satisfied. About a decade later, he fashioned a new first movement, but felt it didn't fit stylistically with the older material, so he left the sonata in two-movement form.

    The opening Fantasia (Adagio di molto) begins with a meditative recitative for solo cello. The piano eventually creeps in and spurs the cello on to the main sonata-form matter of the movement. Kodály does not quote folk songs here, but he liberally employs fourths in his melodies, which are characteristic of Hungarian music, and he gives the work a rhapsodic nature, full of rubato. Also, the piano often finds itself imitating the undampened sound of the cimbalom. At the end, it's the piano that quotes the initial theme.

    Kodály credited Beethoven as the inspiration of the animated main theme of the Allegro con spirito, but its repetitive patterns, modal harmonies, occasional use of drones in the cello, and stamping exuberance are straight out of Hungarian folk dance. Here the cello and piano are true partners, trading off the primary material. The dance rises to an exuberant conclusion, but after a brief pause the piano leads the cello into a long reminiscence of the Fantasia's opening theme, bringing the work full circle.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Fantasia. Adagio di molto
    2. Allegro con spirito - Molto adagio

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2018
    Brilliant Classics
    BRI 95574
    2013
    Nimbus
    NI 59012
    2012
    Anima Records
    ANM 50600001
    2011
    Cadenza / Zebralution
    2009
    JRI Recordings
    123
    2008
    Ars Produktion
    38422
    2007
    EMG Classics
    942311021
    2006
    Finlandia
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    575685
    2003
    Hungaroton
    32196/8
    2003
    Supraphon
    35152
    2003
    Scandinavian Classics
    220587
    2002
    Campanella
    130144
    2001
    Classico
    353/4
    2000
    Pan
    510113
    2000
    EMI Classics
    2000
    Ondine
    ODE827-2
    2000
    Praga
    250150
    1996
    Naxos
    553160
    1995
    Kontrapunkt
    32217
    1995
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMA190 1325
    1994
    BIS
    172
    1988
    Hungaroton
    31046
    Pyramid Records
    13505
    Summit Records
    137
    Round Top Records
    8617
    Erma