The Kodály String Quartet is one of the world's leading veteran chamber ensembles. It traces its origin to 1966 when four students at the famous Franz (Ferenc) Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest founded a student string quartet named the Sebastyan Quartet. The new chamber organization quickly gained a reputation as something special, and in the same year it was officially recognized with a victory at the Geneva International Quartet Competition. In 1968, the Sebastyan Quartet won the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest, named after the violinist-composer who was a major teacher in chamber music, and the main advocate responsible for the international fame of Hungarian string quartets. The Sebastyan Quartet was awarded the "Ferenc Liszt" Award in 1970. In 1980, new first violinist Attila Falvay joined the quartet, resulting in a lineup that would remain the same for over a decade; the veterans were violinist Tamás Szabó, violist Gabor Fias, and cellist János Devich. At that time the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education granted the quartet permission to change its name to the Kodály String Quartet, honoring Zoltán Kodály, one of the nation's greatest composers. The Kodály Quartet immediately began giving concerts in Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan, and eventually major music centers around the world. In the 1990s, cellist Devich left the quartet and was replaced by György Éder, a veteran quartet musician and founder of the Éder String Quartet. At the turn of the millennium, Fias left, and the remaining members were joined by a new violist, János Fejérvári. The Kodály Quartet plays the standard quartet repertory, with an emphasis on Hungarian quartets by such composers as Kodály, Dohnányi, Bartók, and other 20th century masters. It undertook a major series of recordings of Franz Joseph Haydn's quartets, for which it won the Classic CD Magazine Award for the Best Chamber Music Release of 1993 for the recording of the Op. 64 quartets. It has recorded for several labels, including Naxos, for which it is working on a cycle of the Franz Schubert string quartets. In 1990, the Hungarian government named the group a "Merited Artist of the Hungarian Republic" and in 1996 won the Bartók-Pásztory Award named in honor of the composer's widow, Ditta Bartók-Pásztory.
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Chamber Music - Released June 20, 2005 | Naxos
Of the relatively few complete recordings of all Haydn's string quartets, most listeners would probably place the Kodály Quartet's recordings on Naxos at the same exalted level as the Tatrai Quartet's recordings on Hungaroton. Both groups feature a lean tone, a clean ensemble, and a clear-eyed interpretive stance, and both seem to capture the intellectual lucidity, the musical clarity, and the emotional objectivity of the great Austro-Hungarian inventor of the string quartet. But how well does that approach work in Schubert's quartet? As the Tatrai and now the Kodály Quartet have discovered, not nearly so well. In this, the sixth volume of the cycle of Schubert's complete quartets featuring his final work in the genre, the Kodály brings the same virtues to bear on Schubert as it had Haydn. But while clean is always a good thing in string quartet playing, lean works less well in Schubert's richer scoring and warmer harmonies and clear-eyed works not at all in Schubert's more subjectively emotional music. Thus while one appreciates the Kodály's balances in the opening Allegro molto moderato and its articulation in the Scherzo: Allegro vivace, one wishes they had dug deeper into the elegiac central Andante un poco moto into the fiery closing Allegro assai. And while the fill up of the Five German Dances with seven trios and a coda is well-played and nicely rhythmic, one cannot help but wish for a more heartfelt performance. Naxos' sound is a close but a bit thin. © TiVo