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Veress: Concerto Pour Piano; Dutilleux: Mystere De L'instant; Bartok: Divertimento / Holliger, Varjon, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra

Bartok / Veress / Dutilleux / Holliger
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Claves   Catalog #: 1113   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sándor VeressHenri DutilleuxBéla Bartók
Performer:  Dénes Várjon
Conductor:  Heinz Holliger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BARTÓK Divertimento for String Orchestra. DUTILLEUX Mystère de l’instant. VERESS Concerto for Piano, Strings, and Percussion Heinz Holliger, cond; Dénes Várjon (pn); Lausanne CO CLAVES 50-1113 (73:51)

Bartók’s 1939 Divertimento is a thoroughly Swiss gem, commissioned by Paul Sacher, written (in 15 days) at Sacher’s summer home in Saanen, Read more premiered by Sacher in Basel in 1940, and now recorded in Lausanne in 2006. The piece responds nobly to a wide variety of performances; in Fanfare 32:5, I raved about “the strongest, darkest reading of all,” by Jean-Marie Zeitouni and Les Violons du Roy, on ATMA 2576, “a glorious Bartók disc.” Heinz Holliger’s performance is rich and deep, bathed in lovely recorded sound, but the hall is too reverberant for the rhythmic subtleties of the finale. It is beautiful nevertheless, if beauty is what you want from the Divertimento.

Sándor Véress (1907–92) was a pupil of Kodály and Bartók and teacher of Ligeti, Kurtág, and Holliger; he was also an assistant to Bartók in the latter’s folksong research. If the first two movements of his 1952 concerto—both lengthy andantes —give evidence of Bartók (as claimed in the notes), it is a very watered-down Bartók, with little rhythmic, harmonic, or even melodic interest. An Allegro molto finale turns up the excitement; the booklet notes claim it is 12-tone, but I hear only energetic noodling and mind-numbing repetition. I haven’t heard András Schiff’s recording, also led by Holliger.

These three works were commissioned by Sacher, who introduced Dutilleux’s Mystère de l’instant in 1989 in Zurich and recorded it the following year with Collegium Musicum. Scored for 24 strings, cimbalom, and percussion, the piece attempts to capture the sounds—or, more properly, the atmosphere—of nature at various moments and in various places. Ten brief sections are each complete in themselves but are linked, as several begin with a variant of the previous ending. Dutilleux’s piquant harmonies and gossamer, multicolored sounds are as beguiling as always. The several recordings of the work encompass a wide range of interpretation. Holliger’s smooth, slow version occupies a middle ground between Sacher’s dry, insistent treatment—now on Erato—and a lush, sweeping performance by Yan Pascal Tortelier on Chandos. Tortelier employs a full symphony orchestra string section, said to be the original version, although I’ve never seen that stated elsewhere. All three performances are superbly recorded, and I love them equally. Dutilleux, now 96, may still be composing; his 2009 song cycle Le Temps horloge can be heard on Reneé Fleming Poèmes , a Decca disc reviewed in Fanfare 35:6.

A most worthy disc, even though it does not always suit my tastes.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano, Strings and Percussion by Sándor Veress
Performer:  Dénes Várjon (Piano)
Conductor:  Heinz Holliger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; Switzerland 
Mystere de l'instant by Henri Dutilleux
Conductor:  Heinz Holliger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; France 
Divertimento for String Orchestra, Sz 113 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Heinz Holliger
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Budapest, Hungary 

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