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Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, October 2012

We shouldn’t be surprised anymore when the Seattle Symphony and Gerard Schwarz turn in idiomatic performances of late-romantic showpieces. Even after their marvelous Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, this still caught me off guard. These recordings, from 1989 and 1990, are terrific. The highlight is actually Kodály’s beloved Dances of Galánta: Gerard Schwarz shapes the slow opening dances with such lusciousness and rhythmic flexibility that if they’re under tempo I’m not sure it’s noticeable; plus the Seattle Symphony has a sound big and rich enough to sustain attention over the longer span…all the woodwind solos are very fine indeed, the gradual increase in excitement is skillfully handled…

…the Háry János suite…is a very good performance: the Viennese Musical Clock chimes out with cheery accuracy, the following viola solo is…ear-catching, and the entire ‘Song’ is fantastic. The Seattle Symphony’s rich, boldly colorful sound is at its best in the biggest climaxes, like in a battle scene which builds to wonderful heights from a measured initial pace, and also in basically any of the excellent woodwind solos—another element familiar from their newer Naxos recordings. It is a general truth that the composer’s use of winds and trumpets correlates directly with the vividness of the playing.

Ernö von Dohnányi’s Konzertstück for cello and orchestra is less colorful than the Kodály works, giving the program a contemplative heart. The slow movement begins after about six minutes, and is brief but poignant; the way that the cello, flute, oboe, and clarinet converse may remind one of Dvořák. The finale is the longest and most substantial…recalling earlier material and containing a cadenza and an ending which is the best, most moving part of an impassioned work. János Starker is the excellent soloist.

This release might be most valuable for the Dohnányi, as played by Starker…The Kodály…is nevertheless very good, and it makes for a very satisfying CD. I’ll be returning to the Seattle Dances of Galánta a great deal more than I expected. A very desirable CD with a program that should attract interest. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2012

The Seattle Symphony Collection continues with Gerard Schwarz leading the orchestra in 1988–1990 recordings of showpieces by 20th century Hungarian composers Zoltan Kodály (1882–1967) and Ernõ Dohnányi (1877–960). Their luminous sonic qualities are captured optimally by producer Adam Stern and engineer John Eargle.

Kodály begins his Háry János Suite with a bit of musical whimsy: a stunningly orchestrated symphonic “sneeze.”

In the present recording, Schwarz takes a perfectly equipped Seattle Symphony through its paces, with smart, characteristically luminous and insightful performances from every section. Not only do the big “production numbers” (Viennese Musical Clock, Battle and Defeat of Napoleon, Entrance of the emperor and His Court) come across splendidly. So does the enchantingly beautiful Song, an evocation of the night in the form of a serenade, or perhaps a twilight reverie.

Of special interest is the Intermezzo in the form of a Verbunkos, a swirling, exciting, uniquely Hungarian musical genre.

A treat here is the inclusion of Dohnányi’s Konzertstück for Cello and Orchestra. Despite its name, it is a full-blown concerto with the usual three movements incorporated as one in easily-recognizable sections plus a reprise and cadenza. The great János Starker is the soloist here, essaying the many beauties of a score that includes a nocturnal Adagio section where the cello’s melody is enhanced by distant bird-calls in the flutes. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2012

I recall my enthusiasm when reviewing these Kodály recordings when they were issued on the Delos label twenty years ago, their sound quality still impressive. They reappear on Naxos’s ‘Seattle Symphony Collection’, a retrospect of the orchestra’s outstanding releases in the digital era. The up-front sound certainly serves the two works well in terms of brilliance and impact, the use of multi-microphones highlighting the many solos. In both scores Gerard Schwarz takes a free view of tempo and rhythm, the hard-driven final moments of the Galanta Dances just about as fast as the music and the orchestra can stand. By contrast much of Háry János is spacious, allowing the solo viola ample time to luxuriate in the opening of the Song, while the Intermezzo is very relaxed. Originally they were coupled with Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, but now add a work by Kodály’s compatriot, Ernő Dohnanyi. In the composer’s usually self-effacing modesty he stops short of describing the work as a cello concerto, though in most respects that was the outcome. Its three linked movements do not offer brazen virtuosity, but are more content to explore the instrument’s warm and rounded colours. In those aspects they could not wish for a more ideal soloist than János Starker. His intonation and technique is beyond question, and he feels instinctively for the rhapsodic nature of the score. The recorded sound here is beginning to show its age, the orchestra lacking the transparent quality we expect today, but I regard Starker’s account so highly as to place it as the most desirable on disc. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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