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Ludwig Van
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Crossing The Invisible Borders Between Kodály, Dvořák and Janáček

By Norman Lebrecht on January 7, 2022

Pohádka-_Tales_From_Prague_To_Budapest_

Pohádka: Tales From Prague To Budapest (Chandos)

★★★★☆

🎧 Presto Music

The Czechs and Hungarians, two of the most musical nations on earth, keep their treasures as far apart as the remote languages they speak. The Czechs belong to the Slavonic group of languages, the Hungarians to the Finno-Ugaritic. The rhythms of their music, dictated by speech patterns, are seldom heard in the same program. Don’t ask me why.

Two British musicians have crossed the invisible border on this recording, alternating Janacek with Kodály and Dvořák with Andras Mihaly. Cellist Laura van der Heijden is a former BBC Young Musician of the Year, and the Welshman Jâms Coleman is a fast-rising piano collaborator.

They have most to say in Janáček’s Pohadka (fairytale) suite and in the cello conversion of his 1914 violin sonata. The directness of Janáček’s communication is a never-ceasing source of wonder and Laura’s cello tone does not sound out of place in the violin sonata.

Kodály, even in his faded opus 4 cello sonata, never quite matches the Czech composer’s fantasy. Mihaly’s cello-piano movement, written for Kodály’s 80th birthday, give little expressive nods to the absent Bartok; something by Bartok might have scored better for the Hungarian side. The surprise winner on this album is a three-minute piece by Vitezslava Kapralova, phenomenally gifted girlfriend of Bohuslav Martinu who died in France in 1940, tragically young at 25. Where the Hungarians have a midfield of Dohnanyi, Bartók and Kodály, the Czechs always have talent to spare on the bench.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, subscribe to Slippedisc.com.

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