An Exciting Recording of Familiar and Unfamiliar Bartók Work
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sakari Oramo is becoming a conductor to watch. Though widely acclaimed in Finland he is known in this country mainly through his high quality, carefully programmed, innovative recordings - and this all-Bartók program is a fine example of his creativity.
Oramo conducts the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in a meticulously crafted, transparent reading of the brilliant 'Concerto for Orchestra', a work widely represented in the recorded literature. Oramo favors tempi a bit slower than most conductors and in doing so he reveals all of the inner voices of the orchestra as Bartók meant them to be heard: this IS a concerto for orchestra and Oramo assures every instrument its role. It is a gleaming performance.
Less well known is Bartók's 'Concerto for 2 pianos, percussion & orchestra' and hearing this performance makes one wonder why it is not more often heard. Bartók uses the pianos as percussive instruments and pairs them with other percussive partners in a way that broadens the spectrum of sound in a most satisfying way. The fine instrumental soloists here are Lassi Erkkilä, Timothy Ferchen, Paavali Jumppanen and Heini Kärkkäinen. Oramo again provides intricately fine collaboration between orchestra and soloists for this sparkling work.
Rounding out the program are Bartók's seven 'Roumanian Folk Dances' and they have rarely been played with such joyful exhilarating style. This is a fine recording with superb acoustics. Recommended for all fans of Bartók's music and as a fine introduction to those not completely familiar with the many flavors of his output! Grady Harp, September 05
David Saemann | 07/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One might wonder if the catalog needs another Concerto for Orchestra. In the hands of Sakari Oramo, the answer definitely is yes. I have rarely encountered a conductor with such a fine ear. All kinds of little details, especially in the brass, are revealed with a clarity I've never heard before. The Finnish National Radio Symphony may not be a super virtuoso ensemble, but they have the technical demands of the Concerto well in hand. Some of Oramo's tempos are rather slow, and he changes tempo quite noticeably within movements. I'm not sure I favor Oramo's interpretation over my long standing favorite by Erich Leinsdorf, but I definitely enjoyed this performance. The sound engineering is superb, clear at all dynamic levels and well balanced. The other pieces on the album are given thrilling readings, and this is a rare opportunity to hear the 2 piano and percussion concerto in sound engineering that does it full justice. My favorite Concertos for Orchestra are still Leinsdorf's and Jansons's first (a real steal), but Oramo's wears very well."
The real standout is the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percuss
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/09/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Overlooked music often just needs a sterling performance to be revived, and that's the case here with a splendid account of Bartok's Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion, and Strings. The work has long been overshadowed by its original version, the more familiar Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. I've never been fully convinced that Bartok's orchestration, made to gain a wider audience in the concert hall, is successful, but Oramo and his musicians attack this version with high energy and enthusiasm. Yet they are also considerably more lyrical than Boulez in his recent sharp-edged DG account. This softening adds another dimension of accessibility -- the painos are markeldy less percussive. Add to this a splendidly clear and lifelike recording from Watner Classics (which has now given up the ghost on new classical projects), and the result is outstanding.
The major draw for most listeners, of course, is the Concerto for Orchestra. Oramo's reading is fairly fast and streamlined, which comes as a relief after so many performances that feel rather too important and ponderous. His Finnish National Radio forces aren't quite up to the virtuosic demands of the finale -- the strings have to scramble -- but the freshness of this performance counts for a lot.
The seven Romanian Folk-dances last only a minute each. Oramo extracts all their color and tanginess. The setting is for strings only, and here the Finnish violins are convincingly gypsy-like, despite fairly ordinary solo work here and there. That's a quibble considering how appealing this whole CD is overall."