ZOLTAN KODALY: Hary Janos Suite; Dances of Galanta; 2 Arias from Hary Janos – London Sym. Orch./ Istvan Kertesz/ Olga Szonyi, sop. – Decca/HDTT 96K/24-bit stereo audio DVD HDDVD257, 44:23 [avail. in various formats from www.highdeftapetransfers.com] *****:
Kertesz was a leading Hungarian conductor who led some of the world’s greatest orchestras and conducted many operas. His life was cut short by his drowning while swimming in Israel in 1973. This Decca/London recording was one of his best, and has been lovingly transferred by HDTT from the long-unavailable commercial prerecorded open reel tape. The recording was made in London’s Kingsway Hall in 1964.
The suite from the satirical opera Hary Janos opens with an orchestral sneeze, indicated that what is to follow is not necessarily true. The six short movements gave a bird-eye view of the opera. The first is “The Fairy Tale Begins,” there is a “Viennese Musical Clock” movement, a suitably overblown “The Battle and Defeat of Napoleon,” and the work ends with the marshall-sounding “Entrance of the Emperor and his Court.” The Dances of Galanta use some Magyar gypsy tunes of the late 18th century which Kodaly had found.
My favorite recording of the Hary Janos and Galanta Dances had been the one on Mercury Living Presence with Antal Dorati coupled with the Marosszek Dances, Bartok’s Hungarian Sketches and Roumanian Folk Dances. Dating from 1956 and 1958 and in stereo! Naturally I did an A/B comparison of the two recordings. While both capture the exciting Hungarian flavor of the works perfectly, and you get more music on the Mercury reissue CD, it sounds somewhat rolled off, almost as with a blanket over the sonics, compared to the crystalline clarity of the 96/24 stereo transfer to DVD of the HDTT.
This is a delightful holiday collection.