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Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, 4 Pieces / Boulez, Chicago SO

Release Date: 03/15/1994 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 437826   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The four lavish canvases that make up Bartók's Pieces are virtually as much a 'concerto for orchestra' as the better-known masterpiece so named. The first is a steamy re-enactment of Bluebeard's shadowy castle, ripe to bursting-point with extravagant orchestration and magnificently conveyed here, although brass and high strings are occasionally a mite brittle. The Scherzo is a garish burlesque, all savagery and ritual masks, with seething brass trills, pounding ostinatos and startling contrasts in metre and dynamics (at 306" we hear the unmistakable echo of Judith hammering on Bluebeard's Sixth Door). The third is a sort of extended valse triste, scant consolation perhaps after the Scherzo's violence, but prophetic of the Read more Straussian Marcia funèbre that ends the set.

Boulez unleashes these mammoth effusions without taming them: his orchestra confronts Bartók's searing climaxes head-on, and DG's engineers brook no compromise. Comparing this performance with Boulez's earlier New York version on Sony—another fine reading—reveals a 114" speed increase in the "Preludio" (632", as opposed to 746" two decades earlier), though the other three pieces are now rather broader than they were. Also, the newer recording has clearer definition and a far wider dynamic range. Having emerged in the wake of Sz51's closing pages, the sombre opening of the Concerto for Orchestra sounds uncommonly menacing. Yet in the event, Boulez delivers a relatively conservative interpretation; it is a good, clear-headed reading, generally well played but not quite as involving as the conductor's New York version from 1972 (Sony, 11/87—nla). The first movement is nicely animated, although there's a fair amount of extraneous noise at around 8'30"—including what sounds like a distant car horn. The "Pair Play" second movement is pleasantly relaxed, the "Elegia" and "Intermezzo Interrotto" keenly characterized. But the finale occasionally seems faster than the Chicago violins can manage comfortably, although the closing moments burst upon us with immense impact, crowning a fairly positive contender in a very healthy field.

-- Gramophone [3/1994]
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Works on This Recording

Pieces (4) for Orchestra, Op. 12/Sz 51 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912/1921; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1992 
Venue:  Orchestra Hall, Chicago 
Length: 22 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 1992 
Venue:  Orchestra Hall, Chicago 
Length: 37 Minutes 14 Secs. 

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