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Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Bela Bartok, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1

Here are two outstanding performances of Bartók's greatest orchestral works. The creepy first and third movements of the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta appeared as mood music in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining ...  more »

     
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Amazon.com
Here are two outstanding performances of Bartók's greatest orchestral works. The creepy first and third movements of the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta appeared as mood music in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (remember the "river of blood" scenes?), but the other two movements are full of healthy Hungarian dance rhythms. The Concerto for Orchestra was Bartók's last completed work, and it instantly became his most popular. Esa-Pekka Salonen and his Angelenos treat the music with extreme virtuosity--the tempo of the finale, in particular, is amazing. Moreover, Sony has captured this evocative and colorful music in sound of extraordinary range and depth. There's a bass-drum thwack in the first movement of Music that might blow up your system if you're not careful. Great stuff. --David Hurwitz
 

CD Reviews

Orchestral Brilliance!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sometimes it takes a live performance of a composer's work to send us back to our trusty CD collection in an attempt to extend the thrill of what we have just heard. This is the case with turning to these perfomances of Bartok's two great orchestral masterworks - the Concerto for Orchestra and Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta as bountifully conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Philharmonic. The event that started it all was hearing the LA Opera production of Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle", a profoundly moving work in which the orchestra is the main character, albeit ably joined by Bass and Mezzo. Driving home I was left wondering if all of the lush writing for the orchestra in that opera was equalled by Bartok's other works. The answer is "most assuredly". This CD is not only wondrously performed, the sound engineering is superb. The LA Phil plays passionately and intelligently for Salonen. Bartok and Salonen make a perfect fit and we await his Miraculous Madarin performances this fall. This CD is in this listener's opinion the best recording available for finesse, for insights, and for the lush palletes of color that Bartok paints. Even on a car stero system this recording is breathtaking!"
Bartok experts agree
D. B. Rathbun | Washington, DC United States | 06/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had a recent conversation with renouned Bartok expert Ben Suchoff (check out books on Bartok--he wrote most of them), and we indeed discussed recordings of the concerto for orchestra. He expressed that his favorite was this one. I myself am very passionate about this performance of the Concerto, and I'm developing a growing respect for Salonen's work with LA. Ben, however, had not heard Slatkin's, Boulez's, or Blomstedt's. I think Slatkin's is the most intelligent interpretation, in terms of playing what Bartok would want and not what simply suits the conductor's fancy. St. Louis performs it flawlessly, as well--the best brass I've heard in a recording of the Concerto, save perhaps Mehta's with Berlin. Slatkin also includes the original ending, which is nice, and I prefer that ending. Unfortunately Slatkin's is no longer in print, so we should petition BMG. In sum, I certainly don't think you could go wrong with this performance, and your purchase would be backed by an endorsement from the top Bartok scholar."
Two stunning 20th century orchestral works in their finest p
Christopher Culver | 01/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This Sony CD contains two great pieces by Bela Bartok performed by the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. As the first piece is an example of Bartok's personal brand of modernism and the second is very much concerned with popular and folk traditions, the disc as a whole gives a well-rounded view of Bartok's music and makes for a fine introduction to the composer.

"Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" (1937) dates from Bartok's modernist apogee. The first movement is a fugue for strings, progressively louder as more and more voices enter, so that the listener expects a loud and crashing climax. What Bartok instead produces is a sudden slackening of the pace, diffusing all of the tension in a different way, a clever trick to play on listeners raised on classical tropes. The second and third movements feature strange mirror worlds and allusions to the Fibonacii sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5...)--there was Zahlenmystik between Bach and Gubaidulina, after all. In the third movement we have also the then-novel technique of timpani glissandos. And throughout, the opening fugue reappears from time to time, including as sparkling celesta tones. Even after much of Bartok's language has long since become mainstream in film music and contemporary art music, "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" still sounds wondrously fresh and exciting. I discovered classical music through the Darmstadt generation, and I assumed that in going back to Bartok I would find something antique, but through pieces like this I find Bartok stands as a significant innovator.

The "Concerto for Orchestra" (1943) was written in Bartok's last years, when he was living in self-imposed exile in New York. On one hand, it has all the bombast that the concert-attending American public of the time could have wishes for, but on the other hand it is rich in allusions to the folk music of Bartok's native Hungary. While he is clearly writing a crowd-pleaser, Bartok eschews common-practice tonality for a variety of games with scales, and even uses microtonal writing here and then, resulting in a work just as rigorous and original as it is accessible.

I have heard many recordings of these two pieces, and this performance by the L.A. Philharmonic conducted by Salonen is my favourite. He gives an honest reading of the score and doesn't try to play Bartok like standard Romantic repertoire, and he is one of the few who conduct the last movement of the Concerto for Orchestra at the dizzying tempo Bartok indicated. The engineering of the CD is excellent, with full and rich sound. However, the dynamic range replicated means that this is a disc meant for those with excellent home systems who do not have to worry about their neighbours getting upset."