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Though Leopold Mozart and friend and patron Ignaz Leitgeb were both noted horn players and Wolfgang Amadeus wrote extensively for the instrument, the Fischer adaptation of Mozart's 3rd Horn Concerto for cello is not especially successful.

The sound characteristics of a metal conical bore are so far removed from those of a baritone string instrument that the transition of one to the other seems counterfeit and devoid of true verisimilitude. Starker does his level best for this item but for me it simply does not cut the mustard.

Disc 2, devoted entirely to the principal cello works of Starker's countryman Zóltan Kodály, is an encompassing example of instrumental artistry at its finest. In all three works -- the Sonata for cello and piano, Opus 4 (with Otto Herz, piano), the Duo for violin and cello, Opus 7 (with Arnold Eidus, violin) and the mighty unaccompanied Sonata, Opus 8 [listen -- CD2 track 3, 4:21-5:55] -- Starker is without peer. And while more recent recordings have greater sonic depth and amplitude; given the importance of these performances, the 50s recordings are more than acceptable.

'These recordings prompted a call from a Hungarian pianist living in New York, Dr Otto Herz,' Starker recalls. 'One could compare him to Gerald Moore. His voice on the phone sounded full of hurt. "How dare you record Bartók, Kodály and Weiner without me", he asked plaintively. I stuttered and told him the pay was very small. After a short silence, he said "That doesn't matter".'

Starker describes Arnold Eidus as 'a superb player who won first place in the Paris Thibaud Competition (1946) and became the leading commercial violinist in New York.'

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Copyright © 25 September 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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