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Ferenc Fricsay Conducts Bela Bartok

Bartok / Fricsay / Dtso / Bsyo / Riac
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Audite   Catalog #: 21407   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Béla Bartók
Performer:  Tibor VargaHelmut KrebsDietrich Fischer-DieskauAndor Foldes,   ... 
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony OrchestraBerlin RIAS Chamber Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 2 1. 2 Portraits. 2 Cantata profana. 3 Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Dance Suite. Divertimento for String Orchestra. Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. 4 Piano Concertos: No. 2; 5 No. 3 6 Ferenc Fricsay, Read more cond; 1 Tibor Varga, 2 Rudolf Schulz (vn); 3 Helmut Krebs (ten); 3 Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar); 3 RIAS CCh; 3 St. Hedwig’s Cathedral Ch; 4 Andor Foldes, 5 Géza Anda, 6 Louis Kentner (pn); RIAS SO AUDITE 21.407, mono (3 CDs: 213:42)


This wonderful three-CD set presents itself as Fricsay’s complete recordings of Bartók’s music, yet the liner notes refer to DG studio recordings of the Concerto for Orchestra and Bluebeard’s Castle, neither of which is in this collection. Curious.


What is present is, for the most part, marvelous, though the tightly miked, over-bright sound of the Violin Concerto No. 2 and the Divertimento for String Orchestra somewhat spoil the effect of the music. In both, the brass and high strings sound as shrill as the worst NBC Symphony broadcasts, and this shrill sound also affects Varga’s otherwise excellent solo playing. On sonic rather than musical terms, I was glad when they were over. The remastering engineer should have softened the sound with a judicious reduction of treble and possibly the addition of a small amount of reverb.


Needless to say, the studio recordings are all magnificent, not only sonically but meeting Fricsay’s high standards for musical phrasing. I’m convinced that it is only because the famous Fritz Reiner recording is in stereo that his performance of the Music for Strings, etc. is touted so highly; musically Fricsay makes several points in the music that Reiner does not. The liner notes lament that the Cantata profana is sung in German in order to accommodate two of Fricsay’s favorite singers, Helmut Krebs and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. No matter, for the performance itself is splendid and, sonics again aside, it has never been surpassed.


In a review I previously wrote of a modern pianist’s recordings of the Bartók concertos, I brought up the Annie Fischer–Igor Markevitch recording of No. 3 as an example of what the music really should sound like. The Anda–Fricsay recording of No. 2 is yet another example. The music flies like the wind, none of the brass interjections or rhythmic propulsion are ignored, yet none of it sounds like a jackhammer chopping up the pavement of your brain. Indeed, the Adagio enters and maintains a particularly soft and mysterious sound world that is the essence of Bartók’s post-Romanticism. The notes take Kentner to task for glossing over “some of the intricacies of the fragile dialogue between soloist and orchestra in the middle movement” of the Third Concerto, but I find this a small if noticeable blemish in this live concert performance. Many of the orchestral textures completely contradict what one hears in the modern recording on Chandos, and even Kentner’s very masculine reading has more of a legato feeling.


If you take in stride some of the harshness in the live performances (particularly the violin concerto), you’ll definitely want this set in your collection. So much in these performances represents Bartók’s music as it should sound, and it should be remembered that Kodály, Bartók, and Dohnányi were Fricsay’s teachers at the Liszt Music Academy in Budapest. Historically informed performance students, take heed.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Violin no 2, Sz 112 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Tibor Varga (Violin)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937-1938; Budapest, Hungary 
2. Portraits (2) for Orchestra, Op. 5/Sz 37 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1911; Budapest, Hungary 
3. Cantata Profana, Sz 94 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Helmut Krebs (Tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus,  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; Budapest, Hungary 
4. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz 106 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Budapest, Hungary 
5. Dance Suite for Orchestra, Sz 77 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Budapest, Hungary 
6. Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz 113 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Budapest, Hungary 
7. Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1/Sz 27 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Andor Foldes (Piano)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; Budapest, Hungary 
8. Concerto for Piano no 2, Sz 95 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Géza Anda (Piano)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930-1931; Budapest, Hungary 
9. Concerto for Piano no 3, Sz 119 by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Louis Kentner (Piano)
Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 

Sound Samples

Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: I. Allegro non troppo
Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: II. Andante tranquillo
Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: III. Allegro molto
2 Portre (2 Portraits), Op. 5, BB 48b: No. 1. Egy idealis (One Ideal)
2 Portre (2 Portraits), Op. 5, BB 48b: No. 2. Egy torz (One Grotesque)
Cantata profana, BB 100, "A kilenc csodaszarvas" (The 9 Enchanted Stags): I. Volt egy oreg apo (Once there was an old man): Molto moderato
Cantata profana, BB 100, "A kilenc csodaszarvas" (The 9 Enchanted Stags): II. Az erdoket jarta, hej-haj! (Through forest aroving, hey-yah!): Andante
Cantata profana, BB 100, "A kilenc csodaszarvas" (The 9 Enchanted Stags): III. Volt egy oreg apo (Once there was an old man): Moderato
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, BB 114: I. Andante tranquillo
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, BB 114: II. Allegro
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, BB 114: III. Adagio
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, BB 114: IV. Allegro molto
Dance Suite, BB 86a: I. Moderato
Dance Suite, BB 86a: II. Allegro molto
Dance Suite, BB 86a: III. Allegro vivace
Dance Suite, BB 86a: IV. Molto tranquillo
Dance Suite, BB 86a: V. Commodo
Dance Suite, BB 86a: VI. Finale: Allegro
Divertimento, BB 118: I. Allegro non troppo
Divertimento, BB 118: II. Molto adagio
Divertimento, BB 118: III. Allegro assai

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