In concert – CBSO Centre Stage: CBSO strings play Kodály & Korngold


Kodály Serenade, Op. 12 (1919-20)
String Sextet in D major, Op. 10 (1914-16)

CBSO Strings: Kate Suthers & Charlotte Skinner (violins), Adam Römer & Jessica Tickle (violas), Miguel Fernandes & Helen Edgar (cellos)

CBSO Centre, Birmingham
Thursday 27 January 2022 2pm

Written by Richard Whitehouse

Two unfamiliar while appealing works were featured in this afternoon’s Centre Stage recital given by string players from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, written during the early stages and in the aftermath of the First World War at a pivotal time in European culture.

The focus on choral and pedagogic music of Kodály’s later years makes his earlier chamber works the more valuable, and while the Serenade for two violins and viola is by no means the most imposing, its deftness and finesse of writing for this unusual line-up cannot be gainsaid. The lively outer movements abound in those allusions to and inflections of folk melodies that Kodály explored extensively in his maturity, with the central Lento touching upon a vein of ‘night music’ less inwardly intense than if equally evocative to that found in the music of his contemporary Bartók. Its relatively extended formal trajectory can make the final Vivo seem unduly prolix, yet in so buoyant and finely integrated a performance, there was no likelihood of this movement forgoing any sense of direction on its way to a decidedly nonchalant close.

Kodály was around 30 when writing this piece, whereas Korngold was barely out of his teens when he finished the Sextet as draws equally on very different (if by no means incompatible) stylistic traits evident in works for this medium by Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg. If the latter composer is to the fore in the lengthy initial Moderato with its intricate thematic interplay and frequent density of texture, the Adagio exudes a melodic eloquence denoting those operas or film-scores to come. The ensuing Intermezzo is arguably the most characteristic movement in its suavity and teasingly coy charm, while the Finale looks back to Brahms and even Dvořák (whose Sextet would be a welcome inclusion in these recitals) for its underlying vitality and easy-going humour as makes the coda’s rush to the finish the more unexpected and engaging.

Such was the impression left by a finely prepared reading by no means lacking in spontaneity or those flights of fancy such as denote the ‘confidence of youth’. Quintets are the order of the day for the next Centre Stage recital, which features contrasting works by Mozart and Brahms.

You can read more about that next Centre Stage recital, and book tickets, on the CBSO website

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