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Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin, Etc / Dorati, Mehta, Rogé

Release Date: 10/14/1997 
Label:  London/Decca Double Decker Catalog #: 448276   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Performer:  Pascal Rogé
Conductor:  Antal DorátiZubin MehtaWalter Weller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony OrchestraIsrael Philharmonic OrchestraLondon Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 30 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Listening to the cheerfully bucolic diatonicism with which Bartok's Suite No. 1 opens, it is almost impossible to understand how any musicians in 1905, even in so notoriously conservative a city as Vienna, could react to it "with shock and horror", or why at its premiere then and in Budapest two years later it should need to begiven only in part—which so angered the composer that he forbade the Budapest Philharmonic to perform his works any more (which, for three years, it didn't). Bartok's indignation was the more justified in that the five movements of the work are thematically closely interlinked, so that the omission of any section of the "arch form" which he so favoured left a gaping hole in the fabric. It was one Read more of the earliest of his works that he was later to acknowledge, and shows him searching for a nationalist style: although there are tell-tale pages, more especially in the two slow movements, an unprimed "innocent ear" might well find it hard to identify its composer. (A middle-European or Balkan conventional lateRomantic, probably; could those mysterious multi-divisi string tremolandos in the Poco adagio possibly be Sibelius? that scherzo—a very faint echo here and there of Bruckner?) With hindsight we can see the characteristic touches, particularly the imaginative scoring, the nocturnal poetry of the second movement, the wistful clarinet tune in the fourth. The Detroit orchestra under Dorati (the first recording of theirs I have heard) gives a vivid and whole-hearted performance which the technical team has captured with admirable clarity, warmth and sense of perspective. (It might however have eradicated a noisy pageturn in the four-bar silence in the scherzo just before the cut at figure 23.)

The great stylistic strides that Bartok made in the next few years are well demonstrated by the Two Pictures of 1910, which could not be attributed to any other composer. The influence of Debussy is discernible in the scoring of the ravishingly beautiful first piece, but its darkly atmospheric opening and it harmonic thought, strongly prophetic of Duke Bluebeard's Castle (written the following year although not performed until 1918), are entirely individual, as is the tritone-based vigorous dance which forms the second picture. A splendid coupling for the Suite, of which a new version was badly needed.

-- Gramophone [10/1979]

"The Hungarian Pictures of 1908-9 are delightful and are played with charm and humour."
-- Gramophone [12/1976] Reviewing original LP of Hungarian Pictures

"With the help of vivid and brilliant Decca recording (Kingsway Hall the venue) Roge and Weller present a colourful and strong reading, bringing Out the Lisztian echoes."
Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [2/1977] Reviewing original LP of Rhapsody for Piano

The miraculous mandarin is one of the great works of the 20th century's second decade, and a successful concert performance can almost convince me not only that it's a more substantial composition than The Rite of Spring, but that it puts most, if not all, of Bartok's later music into the shade. Recordings of the complete ballet by leading orchestras have appeared with regularity over the past decade or so: Boulez and the NYPO on CBS (73031, 1/73—nla), Dohnanyi and the VPO on Decca (SXL6882, 6/81), Abbado and the LSO on DG (410 598- I GH, 9/83)—as well as an earlier 1966 version by Dorati with the BBC SO (Philips 6768 600, 8/79—nla). Nearly 20 years on, Dorati has returned to the work an older and possibly more cautious man. There are places—the first appearance of the mandarin, the moment where his hanged body begins to glow greenish-bluewhere a more garish, theatrical touch would not come amiss. There is greater relish of the score's many glissandos, and of the more conventionally balletic episodes in the old Budapest PO version listed above. And although Decca's digital sound inevitably outdoes its Hungaraton rival, I'm not sure that the strings (in this wind-dominated score) are given enough space, or that the Detroit wind players have taken full measure of the music's abandon and finesse.

Such relative sobriety, turning at times to heaviness, can also be felt in Dorati's account of the Music for strings, percussion and celesta. The first movement is a shade faster than on Dorati's own earlier version of the piece on Philips, but the persistent quavers still plod by comparison with the recent Liszt Chamber Orchestra version on Hungaraton (now advised as available on CDHCD I2531-2—not yet reviewed). For a proper blend of weight and urgency in the work as a whole, I find the Liszt CO especially satisfying, although Karajan on HMV (with what sounds like larger forces) remains remarkably exciting, and without sacrificing symphonic 'substance'. Where the new Dorati scores is, again, in the up to-date digital sound: for example, from bar 23 of the slow movement we really do hear both solo violin and celesta. On these grounds alone, therefore, this new Bartok LP should not be lightly dismissed.

-- Gramophone [6/1985] Review of original LP of The miraculous mandarin and Music * for strings, percussion and celesta
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Works on This Recording

Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19/Sz 73 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1919; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1983 
Hungarian Sketches (5), Sz 97 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1974 
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz 106 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1983 
Suite for Orchestra no 1, Op. 3/Sz 31 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905/1920; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1978 
Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1/Sz 27 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Pascal Rogé (Piano)
Conductor:  Walter Weller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1974 
Pictures (2) for Orchestra, Op. 10/Sz 46 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Antal Doráti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 1978 

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