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Label:
  Linn Records - http://www.linnrecords.com/
Serial:
  CKD 234
Title:
  Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste etc. - Mackerras
Description:
  Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, Divertimento, Kodaly: Dances of Galánta

Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Sir Charles Mackerras (conductor)
Track listing:
  Total time: 74:54
Genre:
  Classical - Orchestral
Content:
  Stereo/Multichannel
Media:
  Hybrid
Recording type:
 
Recording info:
 

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Reviews: 4 show all
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Review by beardawgs September 4, 2004 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is one of the genuine masterpieces of the 20th century music. It is performed by 2 string orchestras left and right on the stage with the piano, harp, celesta and a battery of various percussion instruments in the middle (piano is a percussion instrument in this case, and harp is part of the ‘strings’). This set-up presents ideal opportunity for surround recording and I’m surprised that it took so long for this first modern recording of this piece. This all Scottish production (minus Aussie cum British cum Czech conductor) is more than satisfactory in terms of recording and the performance, but it’s not as good as I was hoping for.

My main complaint (although a minor one) is a lack of bite in the Music’s fast movements – the orchestra sounds too polished and analytic. Sheer ferocity of Karajan reading (IMO by far still the best one available) is missing, instead we’ve got meticulously thought through analysis of Bartok’s counterpoint and harmonic language. Having said that, that is a perfectly legitimate approach, but knowing the turmoil world was going through when this piece was written, I would still go for earlier, barbaric Bartok’s style. Mackerras is somehow reluctant to let things go and keeps his musicians too tightly under control. Nevertheless, it is a very engaging performance, full of mystery and suspense, which compensates for the lack of personality.

On the other hand, Divertimento gets all the drive and spark, it is gracefully performed without a hint of affectations of any kind. As if Sir Charles is more in tune with the music’s folk elements, the performance as a whole is far more engaging and relaxed. Kodaly’s orchestra firework based on gypsy tunes is a stunner – but apart from the fact that he was Bartok’s friend, I still don’t see any musical connection between the two. Where Kodaly’s “invention” is a skilful orchestration, even the most folk influenced Bartok music is a work of unprecedented genius.

In tune with the "too safe" approach of the Music’s... performance, the recording could have been far riskier in terms of surround image. I’m personally not a great fan of Linn’s fairly reduced surround stage, and this recording opens up a bit, but still not too much. Some of the Music’s... left – right orchestra separation is lost, but there is still a plenty movement from left to right and vice versa. Otherwise, the recording is warm and natural, dynamics (esp in Kodaly’s full orchestra) are huge, and the percussions are captured in their full glory.

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Review by jmvilleneuve April 16, 2006 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The sound take is a bit too close, but it is not horribly dry. The image of the orchestra still has depth and strings woodwinds and brass groups each have clearly delineated space from front to back. But because of a (too?) modest use of the surrounds the image does not really extend in front of the main speakers. Despite this, the multi-channel sound can still work its magic, for example when French Horns are playing, or in louder passages where I think there is a depth of details impossible to get with only two channels.

It is not a recording with a huge dynamic range, but it contains a lot of sharp transient in the first Bartok. All the complex rhythms are well recorded, and sound very sharp and well defined. The second movement of the music for strings, percussions and celesta is probably the best example of this.

I attribute a large part of the success of this recording to the conductor sir Charles Mackerras. What a dynamic and youthful approach to the music for a conductor of his age. The dances of Galanta are memories of Kodaly’s childhood and the conductor really emphasizes the childish and magical side to this music.

I think the strings of this orchestra are better than the winds, and this is OK for the Bartok music. But in the Kodaly I would have wish for a stronger wind section.

I think the Bartok is plenty agressive music by itself without having to overdo it. Again this is purely a question of taste, but I like this approach wich attention to details and inner structure by opposition to just belting it out.

I also want to commend the string section for very dedicated playing throughout. The 2 Bartok pieces require a large range of playing style, from very soft and airy to harsh and violent. Of course there is also all kind of more modern effects (glissandis, multiple note clusters, micro-tones, etc.). All this is done effortlessly, clearly and with energy. This is string playing of the highest order.

For more details and many other multi-channel goodies on my web site: http://www.geocities.com/jmserre/ENKodalyBartok.html

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Review by nickc July 1, 2005 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Although recognising Bartok's place in the pantheon of great 20th. century composers I've always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude to his works - I love things like the Concerto for Orchestra and the (2nd.) Violin Concerto but have found some of his other works (string quartets etc.)unpleasant to listen to. Although that may be a ridiculous criteria to adopt I feel that a bit about these pieces. But hang on you say, aren't you the guy who says he loves Shostakovich! I agree and can only plead in my defence that consistency was never one of my strong points!Whatever my thoughts there is no doubt that Music for Strings et al. is a geniune masterpiece - I don't think the Divertimento is at that exalted level.
The first (and most obvious) thing is that these are chamber size performances. Although Bartok sanctioned (and indeed wrote the Music) for these size forces it sounds a bit thin here. I think the engineering is also somewhat to blame - it is a bit "sterile", for want of a better word.
I love having the Kodaly as an opener but having had Kertesz's LSO performance for years we are in a different world - Kertesz draws a riot of unbridled sounds from his orchestra. MAckerras has a much smaller palette to work with and it shows.
The sound is fairly small scale and as I stated above a bit "sterile", whatever that means, although the latter stages of the Dances expand nicely.

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Works: 3  

Béla Bartók - Divertimento, Sz. 113 BB 118
Béla Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, Sz. 106 BB 114
Zoltán Kodály - Dances of Galánta