09 Kodaly Hary JanosKodály – Háry János Suite; Summer Evening; Symphony in C Major
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.574556 (naxos.com/CatalogueDetail/?id=8.574556)

Imagine a typical village scene in 18th-century Hungary. Recruiting army officers come to the village to enlist some strong peasant lads into the army. Free food and drinks, fun and dancing galore and the lads promptly go to sleep. But when they wake up, surprise! They find themselves soldiers in the army. The dance was the Verbunkos, a strong, rhythmic, syncopated dance that forms one of the movements of Kodaly’s Háry János Suite. Háry János is a folk hero who likes telling tall tales like defeating Napoleon’s army singlehandedly and even getting decorated by the Emperor. Kodály wrote a whole singspiel (music drama) and a suite around it beginning with a giant sneeze meaning that the whole thing is a big joke, but the music is a lot of fun.

Some highlights are the lovely glockenspiel of the Viennese Musical Clock, an amusing mock march when Napoleon gets defeated, a peaceful pastoral interlude of a lovely folk song with some simple variations where the cimbalom is featured and of course the famous Verbunkos Intermezzo, probably the best piece in the suite. The singspiel I saw performed in Budapest in the 1950s with Kodály himself present.

Kodály was composer emeritus of Hungary in the latter half of the 20th century, but he was also a tremendous educator who invented the solfege method of teaching with hand signals and to introduce music early to young children with the emphasis on singing together.

This new recording follows an earlier very successful issue of Kodály with JoAnn Falletta conducting (which I reviewed in The WholeNote April 2018). She is now much favoured by Klaus Heymann, the owner of Naxos is with a host of new recordings spreading her and her brilliant orchestra’s name all over the world.

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