Skip to content
Home » Classical Downloads » Starker plays Kodaly (FLAC)

Starker plays Kodaly (FLAC)

Starker plays Kodaly (FLAC)
Starker plays Kodaly (FLAC)

Composer: Hans Bottermund, Zoltan Kodaly
Performer: Janos Starker, Josef Gingold
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: Delos Records
Size: 316 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

# Variations on a Theme by Paganini for cello solo
Composed by Hans Bottermund
with Janos Starker, Josef Gingold

# Sonata for solo cello, Op. 8
Composed by Zoltan Kodaly
with Janos Starker, Josef Gingold

# Duo for violin & cello, Op. 7
Composed by Zoltan Kodaly
with Janos Starker, Josef Gingold

Starker’s Signature piece – Complete and without cuts

The renowned cellist János Starker died just a few days ago at the age of 88. He was one of the most accomplished and proficient cellists of modern times, and among all of the various compositions that he performed and recorded over his long career, the Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Op. 8 composed by Zoltán Kodály must take pride of place.

Starker performed this work for the composer Kodály in 1939 when he was just 15 years old, first privately and then in concert in Budapest. Starker was the first to record it (at 78 rpm), in Paris in 1948, and he received the Grand Prix du Disque award for that recording. Starker moved permanently to the U.S., also in 1948, and over the following years he had several other opportunities to perform for Kodály, both during the composers conducting tours in the U.S., and in London. When the two met shortly before Kodály’s death in 1967, the composer told Starker “If you correct the ritard in the third movement, it will be the Bible performance”.

Starker made the first LP recording of the work in 1950 in New York City, with later recordings in London, in 1956, and his final recording of the work was made in Japan in 1970.

The performance on this disc is his final recording of the work, from 1970. An important distinction from the earlier recordings is that in here he performs the complete Cello Sonata, with no cuts (all earlier recorded versions by Starker had cuts in the second and/or third movements, usually made so that the performance would fit within the capacity of the album sides available to him at the time). This final performance was transferred digitally to CD and this was the first appearance of the work on compact disc.

So, with all of that history, how is the performance and how does it compare with his (and other artists) performances of the Sonata?

To my ears, the performance is spectacular, precise and intense, and recorded with very high quality sound. This recording also received Penguin’s “key recommendation” (The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2008).

I also have one of Starker’s earlier performances in my collection – Janos Starker’s Legendary Period LPs, Vol. 1, which includes the 1950 New York recording. It is about 3 minutes shorter than the 1970 recording, and as you would expect the sound quality is not as good as the more recent recording. The performance is also excellent although I do not consider myself to have enough familiarity with this work to have an expert opinion.

If I had to chose between the two, I would select the 1970 performance on this disc, due to the better sound quality. The other works included with each album are quite different, however, so that might also influence a purchase decision (the 1950 performance is part of a 2 CD set which includes Cello Concertos by Boccherini and Mozart).

As far as alternatives to Starker for this work – Penguin also lists Kodaly/Novak:Sonatas for Cello, with Czech cellist Jiří Bárta, as their other “key recommendation”, and Korean cellist Sun-Won Yang Kodály: Music for Cello and Piano and Maria Kliegel Kodály: Music for Cello as alternate recommendations. The Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2012 has a slightly different view, naming Natalie Clein Kodaly: Sonata for solo cello as their top pick, with Kliegel and Bárta also listed as alternatives.

I am sure that any of the recordings mentioned above would be quite fine, but for my library the one to have is Starker. He is the one who, through his commitment to the work over the years, established this composition in the repertoire for cello. And given his personal history with the composer I think that his interpretation must be given the highest respect. This is the performance that I intend to stick with in order to improve my familiarity with it and to enhance my appreciation of both the composition and with Starker’s virtuosity.

There is more on this disc than the Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Op. 8 – also included is Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7, with Josef Gingold on violin. It is an equally excellent performance (but frankly I purchased the CD for the Sonata, so the Duo was a bonus as far as I’m concerned).

Finally on this disc – Variations on a Theme by Paganini: this performance of the variations as transcribed by Starker, composed by Hans Bottermund on Paganini’s 24th Caprice for Violin. Bottermund was principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic and later professor at the University of Cologne. According to the liner notes with this disc, Starker played this piece as an encore in concert but this was the first recording (Japan, 1978). Starker had come across the work when he was about twelve, made a penciled copy of the music and later prepared an edition of the music containing the variations that he liked the best (which is an interesting selection, I must say). The recording of this piece is excellent (and the performance is too, of course).

The disc comes with very informative liner notes giving a full discussion of the history of Kodály’s works and of Starker’s performances.

Excellent performances by one of the most famous and accomplished interpreters of Kodály’s works for the cello.

2 thoughts on “Starker plays Kodaly (FLAC)”

Leave a Reply