, January 1990
The present series of Haydn recrodings by the excellent KodØly Quartet were made in the Hungaroton studios in Rottenbiller. In no way are these bargain CDs inferior to those one might find on the major companies' premium-price labels. They offer digital sound of the highest quality and excellent musical documentation. The performances give great pleasure. They are alive and cultivated: the players are clearly enjoying the music, and communication between themselves and to us. The presentation is polished as well as warm and civilized, tempos are usually unerringly apt and the music-making is strikingly spontaneous. The account of the third of the Op. 71 set of quartets is particularly fine, with its Andante variations elegant and poised and the Minuet's Trio full of wit. The finale caps the performance with its natural energy and although marked Vivace is not rushed.
All three of the Op. 74 works are among Haydn's greatest masterpieces for the medium, and they are marvellously done. One could mention the strength of the opening movement of Op. 74 No. 1, the charm of the variations which form the Andante grazioso of Op. 74 No. 2, or the wonderful, serene Largo assai of the last of the set, all offered here with the inimate, thoughtfull concentration. The recording is vividly real and present but not too close, and the ambience is just right. Digital techniques are used with sophistication: the producer Janos Matyhas and engineers Ferenc Pecsi and Veronika Vincze deserve congratulations for the natural balance.
For The Seven Last Words the effect seems slightly more vivid, but it might just be that the playing has that bit more projection and emotional force. Certainly the dramatic opening and closing sections make a strong impact, and what also strikes one is that the group finds so much expressive variety in the seven essentially slow movements which come in between: there is inspirstional subtlety in the way the degree of intensity is controlled, and never the slightest suggestion of longeurs. To complete our pleasure the Kodály Quartet end the disc with an excellent account of Haydn's unfinished last quartet (the inner movements, an Andante and Minuet are all that he completed). It was written in the same year (1803) that he had directed his last public performance in Vienna, when the work he chose was The Seven Last Words.