A well-kept secret and a tremendous CD
John Grabowski | USA | 09/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Boulez (DG) and Reiner (RCA) have "the reputation" in the Concerto for Orchestra by Bartok, as the many reviews praising both recordings will attest. Yet for my money this disc is "where it's at," to use street slang. Dorati gives us stunning clarity and some real insights into a work that's a lot more complex than other recordings will have you realize. There are inner details revealing Bartok's complex cross-rhythms that often get lost in the frenzy of brass and percussion in many performances. Amazingly, this recording is as powerful and, well, "loud" as any other--in fact even more than most, including Boulez's effort with the CSO--yet all the delicate detail shows through. You'll hear lines you never heard before, and discover phrases to be make up of combinations of instruments you didn't realize. The same relevations are present in the Dance Suite as well. One almost feels like one is examing a score when hearing these performances, but that's not meant as an insult. Rather it means the clarity of Bartok's writing comes through in ways I've not heard before or since. Just listen for the way Dorati prepares, in the ostinato figure, for the forte entrance for the strings at 2:13 of the first movement (so often that entrance just sounds arbrtrary and out of nowhere), or the chilling blending of the winds at 1:10 in the third movement. Then listen to the descending line in the flutes (?) at 5:06 of the same movement--I've never heard them in any previous performance. That whole moment is prepared for brilliantly, with a slow gradual buildup of tension that had me holding my breath. Dorati seems to recognize something many other conductors have not--this mournful slow movement is really the spine of the symphony, the weightiest movement. After this gloomiest of moments, the next movement is not the light lilting flicker it often is played as, but rather sunlight emerging from cloudy skies, with muted optimism from the strings starting at 1:05. The comical turn at roughly two minutes in, based on everything from a bawdy jig to the first movement of the Shostakovich 7th Symphony, depending on whom you ask, is taken for all it's worth. The finale, which begins with a rarely-heard accelerando that works perfectly to raise the pulse, is like staring into a clear pond and seeing (or hearing) all sorts of intricate inner details for the first time. Listen to the trombone line(s) at 1:52. Bet you didn't know those were two deparate brass lines, did you, so often do we hear just one blast of trombone. But careful attention to phrasing throughout this recording--making sure this player doesn't step on that player's last note, or ensuring a syncopated phrase is clear--is what makes this recording stand above the rest.Dorati also contrasts tempos more than any other conductor I've heard, bringing very different characteristics to the various sections within each movement and really differentiating them for the listener. Because of the distinctions from section to section, I got a sense of the structure in all the works here far more stronly than I do from most recordings, yet nothing is forced, or indeed even that extreme. I wonder instead why so many other conductors have been so tentative in infusing Bartok with their own personality. The much-heralded Boulez recording is especially disappointing here. There are a few very minor flaws. Despite first-rate sound, there are occasional quick "drop-outs" here and there, probably due to the 35mm film recording medium and the recording's age. The miking is a bit too close perhaps. These blemishes shouldn't discourage anyone, however, except possibly the most hard-core audiophile who treasures great sound more than great music."
A notable contribution to Bartok ¨ s Concerto!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 10/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To be true, there are many works that have attested the cruel human condition under the opprobrium and the terror regimes in the fear 's Century according Albert Camus. This Concert must be understood under the whole meaning of the term exiled. That 's why the most of conductors who have triumphed with this performance have been precisely newcomers to the New World such as the Hungarians Fritz Reiner, Ferenc Fricsay and Antal Dorati, the Russian Serguei Koussevitzky. Something similar (and keeping the adequate distance) happens with respect Shakespeare 's spirit at the moment to be played by an American Ensemble. Orson Welles stated more than once: he needed to explain what it means the terms of kingdom, proud and honor, terms absolute unknown for the North Americans who have always lived under democracy.
The mythic journey is done by Bartok in this work of undeniable virtues. It represents the experience through a kaleidoscopic parade of feelings, livings and sorrows, but Bartok fortunately crowns this heartfelt tribute with a song to life in the Last Movement. If he would have remained just in a tragic mood, the work probably had finished as Tcahikovsky 's Sixth or Mahler 's Ninth.
Antal Dorati got to express the minimum facets of the Concerto to London Symphony members with such conviction and commitment that it can be perceived easily by the listener. After the painful Wartimes, the musical core of this piece seems to have vanished being simply played without that second intention beneath the score.
Something similar is happening with Shostakovich 's works and that is definitively a blunder, because these are composers who were exception 's witnesses and simply reflected in music that hell of oppression and horror.
Dance Suite is magnificent played too. Two portraits and two excerpts of Micro Cosmos are expressed with severe realism without fireworks in the line of let 's say Rafael Kubelik with the Chicago Symphony or Mr. K with the Berlin Philharmonic, for instance.
The sound is impressive but the approach is even better.