Famous readings that have been surpassed in the decades sinc
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 06/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've never thought of Antal Dorati as a great conductor, but he was certainly an accomplished one in Bartok's music. I hadn't heard any of these recordings in decades, but returning to them didn't exactly astonish me. Mercury Living Presence is a legendary label among audiophiles (more for the original LPs than for the digital transfers made from them), but in return for the airiness and detail of the sonics, I've always found the treble too bright, to the point of stinging the ear. Even so, Dorati's bargain Bartok set sounds quite good.
The real issue is interpretation and execution. The Minneapolis SO plays well, but in the intervening years we've gotten used to virtuoso ensembles in Bartok, led by the likes of Bernstein, Boulez, and Solti, just to name three whose Bartok is especially fine. As far as interpretation goes, Dorati's have been recommended repeatedly by British critics, but frankly I don't hear any great insight. Dorati has a natural feeling for the idiom, and I'm glad to hear Yehudi Menuhin in the Second Violin Cto., one of his specialties, as well as the two native Hungarian singers who perform in Bluebeard's Castle.
Yet Dorati tends to be rather mild in almost everything here, with some exceptions like the Dance Suite and Divertimento, where he brings real energy and alertness. In the large scale masterpieces like the Concerto for Orch., Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, Bluebeard's Castle, the Second Violin Cto., and the Miraculous Mandarin, his readings don't rise to the highest level. In particular, Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra have brought Bartok back home with more striking results and just as good sound. If you want an older generation of Hungarian conductors, Reiner and Fricsay outdo Dorati, too."