Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rafael Kubelik recorded Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra twice commercially, and two live recordings (including this one) also grace the current catalog. His finest version, indeed one of the select reference editions of the work, remains his Boston Symphony performance for DG, but his live effort differs from that one sufficiently to warrant further investigation. Kubelik's studio recordings often differ substantially from his concert versions. Here, he plays the three inner movements as one, at virtually a single tempo, sacrificing some of the darkness and intensity of the slow movement but compensating with a tremendously exciting attack on the finale. The Bavarian players follow him every step of the way, not quite as polished
individually or as an ensemble as their Boston counterparts, but enormously committed all the same. The 1978 recording sounds just a touch too distantly miked for ideal textural clarity, but it's otherwise warm and full.
Kubelik's mono Mercury Living Presence recording of the Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta still stands among the best recordings of that work, but this newcomer improves on it. True, there are moments of unsteady ensemble (as at the start of the second movement), but these matter not a whit in a performance that conveys the music's passion, terror, and ultimate triumph in a manner that few others can claim. In particular, after a spellbindingly lugubrious opening fugue and an aptly ferocious second movement, Kubelik turns in what is arguably the finest performance of the hallucinatory third movement yet to appear on disc. His tempo is daringly swift (6:46--almost exactly Bartók's own extremely fast timing as noted in the score), and every detail--the click of the xylophone, the glissandos in timpani and violins, the soft tremolos of the lower strings--registers with extraordinary clarity and impact. The central climax will simply scare the living daylights out of you. After this night of horror, the genial and propulsive account of the finale offers exactly the necessary relief. Excellent recorded sound sets the seal on a positively cathartic event that alone justifies purchase of the disc.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116 by Béla Bartók
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1943; USA
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