TopMusic is a Hong Kong label which has produced a series of both multichannel and stereo-only hybrid SACDs. Many are sampler test discs tied in with various manufacturers, and there is a series of recordings licensed from the U.S. classical label Delos – most of them not released on SACD by Delos themselves. This is one of the most important, featuring the solo cello piece by the Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly which has nearly as strong a position in the cello repertory today as Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites. The Sonata was originally recorded in Japan in 1970 and the Duo in 1973 at Indiana University.
The sonata was praised shortly after its premiere by fellow Hungarian Bela Bartok, who commended its highly original and unusual style, using the simplest technical means. Kodaly keeps the performer very busy, using the cello from top to bottom, including bowing close to the bridge, and using all the fingers. Three fingers play the melodic lines while others are plucking chords. Many other later composers were influenced in their cello concertos by Kodaly’s extended use of the cello’s instrumental range in this work. Janos Starker is the perfect interpreter of the work since he made its very first recording in 1948 and worked closely with Kodaly in the intricacies of its performance. Due to the time limitations of 78s, cuts were made in the work which were only finally restored in the 1970 recording.
The Violin-Cello Duo is also a most original work for that combination, and may have inspired Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. The short transcription by Starker which opens the program uses Paganini’s 24th Caprice, which was used more than once by Rachmaninoff and others. Starker’s cello tone is rich and highly detailed in this revealing disc. TopMusic must insert the proper language note booklet depending on where the SACDs are being shipped, because the extensive notes from the Delos original included here are entirely in English.
– John Sunier