Concerto for Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre BoulezTrack Listing:
Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra is the closest he ever came to writing a Symphony. It is a dramatic work, a true showpieec for Orchestra written late in his career. Many of the jarring disonances of his earlier years are absent, but this is still a decidedly modern work. However, it is also one that cannot fail to please the lsitener. Boulez's treatment of the demanding material is wonderful, somber in the elegy, playful in the intermezzo, and boldly rushing like a whirling dervish in the finale! The Four Orchestral Pieces are delightful miniatures in their own right, though more typical of Bartók's early years. They make for a rigorous companion to the Concerto.
Concertos for Piano 1 - 3
Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Ferenc Fricsay
Piano: Géza AndaTrack Listing:
Bartók's three Piano Concertos span his entire career, his third being the last composition he was able to finish. The first is a dark brooding piece full of angular melodies, hard bass lines, and clashing harmonies. The second possesses more of an optimistic outlook, though is still full of the same dissonances that mark the first. The third is quite friendly throughout most of its length, ending with a flourish that the late romantics would have approved. Géza Anda was one of the permier interpretors of these works, being a Hungarian himself. It is a delight that Deutsche Grammophon would choose to preserve these stellar recordings of such solid concertos.
The Miraculous Mandarin and Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Pierre BoulezTrack Listing:
The Miraculous Mandarin is a pantomine of overt sexuality. Certianly avant-garde at its time, it still can bring to mind its barbaric sotry with its merciless pounding and dancing, as well as its ethereal and mysterious chanting at the end. The Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is a completely abstract work that displays a masterful command of each instrument in question. The mystery of the opening movement bleeds into the dynamism of the second (which was used in the movie Being John Malkovich. The quietude of the third movement leads to the powerhouse of a finale, which at its premier was played a second time as an encore as it received such an enthusiastic response. Once again, Boulez treats each work with a master's touch. A necessary disk for any Bartók collection.
Violin Concerto No. 2
Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez
Violin: Gil ShahamTrack Listing:
The Violin Concerto opens with an almost hypnotic chant that quickly leads into a very complicated melody on the violin. From there the work simply grows of its own accord, full of majestic harmony, and dissonance. Certainly a worthy adition to the repetoire for the Violin. The two Rhapsodies are much lighter in both conception and delivery, and neither has appealed to me in any great way. But the Violin Concerto is worth repeated listening.
289 459 639-2
Horn: Barry TuckwellTrack Listing:
Knussen admits that he prefers to be "bewitched for a few minutes than hypnotized for an hour" in the notes on this disc. And it is an apt phrase, since the pieces on this disc are all quite short. And apart from the Horn Concerto, I find them all rather forgettable. A cute distraction, but merely that. I prefer to be hypnotized for an hour I suppose. The Horn Concerto is the one saving grace on this disc, as it is a rel treat, and gives us a rousing display of the French Horn's capabilities. However, unless one prefers the miniature to the symphony, this is not a disc I can recommend.
289 459 639-2
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