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Bartok: Concerto For Orchestra, Kossuth / Fischer


Release Date: 02/09/1999 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 456575   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Iván Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival OrchestraSlovak Folk Ensemble Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

Special Order:  This CD requires additional production time and ships within 2-3 business days.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

One senses that the players are being driven to the very limits of their abilities, which only serves to intensify the excitement. This is yet another winner from this wonderfully responsive orchestra.

Hearing this superb CD reminded me of a letter published in our Awards 1998 issue where Mr Michael Scott recalled how, according to his local record dealer, Bartók's music 'doesn't sell'. If 'sounding too modern' is the problem, then I would recommend that Mr Scott's dealer sample Bartók's youthful Kossuth, as enjoyable a tonepoem as any save for Strauss's or Liszt's best, lyrical and dramatic, especially in the eighth section (track 9, from 1016"), where perky bassoons prompt a head-on confrontation by
Read more poking fun at the Austrian national anthem. Up till now, Herbert Blomstedt's excellent San Francisco recording for Decca has reigned supreme, but Fischer and his orchestra steal a lead on Blomstedt at virtually every juncture. Solos in all departments are highly distinctive, while tutti passages have an earthy, upfront quality that lends extra fibre to Bartók's textures, whether the thrusting strings at 204", the sharply etched woodwind figurations at 458" or the Tristan-es que sequences at 621". Kossuth's musical effect relies almost entirely on the conviction of its interpreters, and in that respect alone Fischer wins hands down.

Bartók completed his five Village Scenes (originally for voice and piano) in 1924, orchestrating three of them two years later at Koussevitzky's suggestion. First-timers might notice a certain similarity between Bartók's dazzling instrumentation and Hindemith's for his First Kammermusik, composed in 1922. Both are remarkable, with Bartók placing a doleful, slightly unsettling 'Lullaby' between a frisky 'Wedding' and a hyperactive 'Lad's Dance' (a sure-fire potential hit on its own terms: Classic FM please note). The Slovak Folk Ensemble Chorus (all ladies) squeal their hearts out for the wedding and Fischer keeps Bartók's hot-foot syncopations alive and kicking. A pity that Philips fail to include texts and translations.

As to the Concerto for Orchestra, again it is the flavour of the performance that wins the day. I think in particular of the subtle portamento that spices the string line at bars 52-3 (236") of the first movement, and the sombre colouring— specifically from the horns, cellos and basses — near the end of the movement, at 858. Fischer is a dab hand at shaping and inflecting the musical line, and his characterization of the `Giuoco delle coppie'—paced, incidentally, at the prescribed crotchet=94—is second to none. He sails into the movement's 'brass chorale' trio without a hint of a pause and invests the `Elegia' with the maximum respectable quota of passion (just try the searing string entreaties at 201"). The 'Intermezzo interrotto' dances to a few added accents and, beyond the 'Leningrad Symphony' rumpus and its rasping trombones, some exquisite muted string playing (marked Calmo, at 253"). The finale is a riot of sunshine and swirling skirts, except for the mysterious—and notoriously tricky—pit:, presto coda, with its rushing sul ponticello string choirs, which Fischer articulates with great care. One senses that the players are being driven to the very limits of their abilities, which only serves to intensify the excitement. While not meaning to sound like an Ivan Fischer 'groupie', I am delighted to welcome yet another winner from this wonderfully responsive orchestra.

Philips's dynamic sound frame works best in Kossuth and the Village Scenes, though most of the Concerto also sounds excellent. My only complaint is of a marginally flat brass chord in the finale (at 826'') and a quiet, short-lived low electronic hum in the same movement (from 345"). Otherwise, a clear front runner, I would say, with Blomstedt (Kossuth and the Concerto) as a worthy 'second' and with Reiner, Dorati and the mono Fricsay offering the best mid-price options for the Concerto. As to the present release, Mr Scott's record dealer should keep it active in the shop's CD tray. Once heard, it is unlikely to remain in stock for long.

-- Robert Cowan, Gramophone [1/1999]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Iván Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest, Hungary 
Length: 36 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
Three Village Scenes, Sz 79 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Iván Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival Orchestra,  Slovak Folk Ensemble Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest, Hungary 
Length: 10 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Language: Hungarian 
3.
Kossuth, Sz 21 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Iván Fischer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Italian Institute, Budapest, Hungary 
Length: 19 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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