Notes and Editorial Reviews
Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. Romanian Folk Dances,
Sz 56 (orch. Zeitouni)
Jean-Marie Zeitouni, cond; Les Violons du Roy
ATMA 2576 (64:48)
Divertimento: was there ever a more misleading title? It has confused listeners, commentators, and performers for half a century. Of five recordings by Hungarian conductors—Reiner, Serly, Solti, Dorati, and Fricsay—only the latter fully realizes the depths of this music.
Zeitouni does too, in the strongest, darkest reading of all. The first movement, Allegro ma non troppo, is a full minute slower than Reiner’s or Fricsay’s, yet packs plenty of rhythmic punch. The Molto adagio is mesmerizing, almost three minutes slower than Reiner’s. Les Violons du Roy, a 24-year-old chamber ensemble from Québec, has been beefed up to 22 strings (6/6/4/4/2) for these recordings. Its playing is gutsy yet elegant, ideal for Bartók’s late scores (1939, 1938).
Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
is equally strong and sensitive, its Adagio especially deep and mysterious. This performance is virtually the equal of the great ones by the Chicago Symphony under Reiner and Solti, and at least as fine as any other. The recorded sound is exceptionally successful at capturing the dark silk of this ensemble’s strings; yet I am not as conscious of exact instrument placement in the work as is sometimes the case. Being aware of the score’s requirements, we have come to expect recordings to position every note in space, but I find the overall performance to be a more important matter.
Sz 56 identifies Bartók’s original piano version of the
Romanian Folk Dances
; his own orchestration, for strings and winds, is Sz 68. Zeitouni apparently wanted to play them with the
Music for Strings . . .
forces: no winds, but plenty of percussion. Bartók’s exquisite colors are replaced by none-too-subtle bangs of excitement, much of it provided by drum and piano. But, hey! This is seven minutes of irresistible folk music, so let’s get down off our high horse and dance.
A glorious Bartók disc, a winner for the seasoned specialist or the newcomer to the game.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Romanian Folkdances (6) for Piano, Sz 56 by Béla Bartók
Les Violons du Roy
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1915; Budapest, Hungary
Notes: Arranged for strings and piano.
Featured Sound Samples
Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta: IV. Allegro molto
Romanian Folkdances for Piano: I. Joc cu bâta
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