Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

Kelemen Quartet at the Glenroy

The vibrancy of Hungarian music and generous programme had a full house at the Glenroy shouting and stamping. The Kelemen Quartet, violinists Barnabas and Katalin Kokas, violist Gabor Homoki and guest cellist Akos Takacs, presented a programme highlighting the development of the genre from the court composers Mozart and Haydn and the more individualistic twentieth century composers, Kodály and Bartók. There is room, as the Kronos Quartet revealed this time last year, for a local and larger audience for a live programme drawn from the twentieth and twentieth-first century. It is perhaps time to recognize that Mozart‘s and Haydn‘s elegant music are not necessary precursors to enjoying Kodály’s and Bartók’s exuberant nationalistic music. Kodály’s Serenade for two violins and viola, Opus 12 written between 1919 and 1920 deserves to be heard more often than it is. Opening with a clear reference to Hungarian folk music with exceptionally beautiful sections for the viola accompanied by guitar-like strumming, it travels through the music worlds of Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande”, Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” to a bravado and rubato made famous by Kreutzer to a fabulously lively climax. Bartók’s String Quartet no 4 presents an angry world and is not gentle on the ear. Its tough grating outer skin peels away to reveal a hive of transparent menacing which protects an inner vulnerable core of Pärt-like fragility. We are returned to the outer world via a layer of fierce strumming. The outer skin of the last movement presents a mollified version of the savagery of the first movement. Written in 1928 it signals Bartók’s continued acknowledgement as a leading and accessible composer. This work is thrilling, totally engrossing and a necessary experience for a wide range of music lovers. In the face of this brilliance, Mozart’s “Dissonance” and Haydn’s Quartet in D, though performed immaculately, seemed sadly faded.

Marian Poole