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Bartok: Kossuth, Two Portraits, Suite / Falletta, Buffalo

Bartok / Buffalo Phil / Falletta
Release Date: 09/09/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 573307  
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here’s a fine way to plug a hole in your Bartók collection. Kossuth is a big, fat Straussian symphonic poem (eight horns and all that) lasting about twenty minutes. It has all of the German composer’s fabled opulence of sonority, but lacks memorable tunes. Still, it gets the job done, and so does this performance, which has plenty of swagger from the brass and a couple of pulverizing climaxes. The work has been recorded numerous times by now, most notably by Blomstedt in San Francisco for Decca, but this version more than holds its own.

The Two Portraits is probably the best known work here, but it is also (to me at least) one of Bartók’s least satisfying. The first portrait is the opening movement of what is
Read more otherwise the First Violin Concerto. It has always sounded to me like ten minutes of meandering chromatic sludge, but for some reason this version, sensitively rendered by violinist Michael Ludwig, projects a purity and purpose that I found quite affecting. The second portrait (“grotesque”) lasts only two and a half minutes and is over before it ever really gets going. Falletta plays it for all it’s worth, but this odd diptych remains a puzzle.

Bartók’s Suite No. 1 remains one of his least played pieces, alongside the Suite No. 2. This is strange because the music is colorful, tuneful, and lots of fun, written in the composer’s early, Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody style. A large work in five movements, it’s good to have a new recording to set alongside Dorati’s benchmark performance, also on Decca. Once again Falletta and the Buffalo players more than hold their own, and the only criticism I have about this release stems from the slightly boxy sonics–clear and impactful on the top and bottom, but oddly “squeezed” in the middle. The ear quickly adjusts. Another smart program from Naxos and Falletta.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Suite for Orchestra no 1, Op. 3/Sz 31 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905/1920; Vienna, Austria 
Portraits (2) for Orchestra, Op. 5/Sz 37 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1911; Budapest, Hungary 
Kossuth, Sz 21 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; Budapest, Hungary 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
  Early Bartok shows influences October 10, 2014 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Kossuth -- Symphonic Poem (1903) is deliberately modeled on Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben, and conveys the same sense of high drama. Bartok is never far from his Hungarian roots, though, and this saga of Kossuth the Freedom Fighter is infused with the flavor of Hungarian folk song. Bartok's Suite No. 1 for Orchestra, Op. 3 (1905) also shows the strong influence of Strauss, and (to my ears) Wagner. Each short movement seems to be an opportunity for Bartok to show off his skill at orchestrating a particular mood. Although the music sounds more like Bartok's influences than his own voice, it's still dramatic, tuneful, and entertaining. Maestro Falletta isn't afraid to revel in the richness of this music, and the Buffalo Philharmonic has the chops to pull it off. The warm, full sound of the ensemble is well-suited to young Bartok's music, bringing out the similarities between the composer and his influences." Report Abuse
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