Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussions..., the Miracolous Mandarin - suite, Divertimento - Chicago Symphony Orch., Solti

Bela Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussions and Celesta, The Miracolous Mandarin - suite, Divertimento
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti
Decca - 430 352-2


I decided to fill a gap in our collection with one of the greatest of works of the 20th century. The present recording has been repackaged in "The Originals", and later in the "Double Decca" collection to also include the Concerto for Orchestra, thus providing a small collection of Bartok's greatest orchestral works.
A review of the "Double Decca" is reported below.

Classics Today Rating: 8/9
These performances by the Chicago Symphony under Georg Solti are of exceptional quality, fusing phenomenal orchestral virtuosity with the conductor's famous authority in this repertoire, in radiant, resonant Decca recordings. The Concerto For Orchestra, Solti's 1980 Orchestra Hall reading, lacks something of the dry humour he injected into the Shostakovich parody section of the "Intermezzo" in his own earlier London Symphony version (generally less well played), but otherwise this is marvelous on all counts. The Miraculous Mandarin suite sounds almost too highly polished at times--trombones near the start haven't the required slithering vulgarity, and the brilliantly executed fugal section led off by the violas near the climax glosses over the music's intended lurid pictorialism. The Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta also brings some incredible playing, with every dynamic detail and nuance in place. But the piano sounds too remote and Solti's clinical precision sometimes robs the music of the raw-nerved vitality that Bartók clearly desires. For that you can always have Ferenc Fricsay's Berlin Radio performances from the mid-1950s (available on DG) on your shelves--but beyond that, you'll find nothing lacking in the rest of this excellent program (the Dance Suite is especially brilliant). [9/23/2002]

--Michael Jameson

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