Bartok – Concerto for orchestra [2/2]

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Bartok – Concerto for orchestra [2/2] [1/2]

So there are still 15 versions to listen to, with 11 conductors, with at least 5 of Hungarian origin. This selection is very subjective: we selected those who had at least note 8, but many were rated 7.5; but I do not think I deviated from any major version, for my taste anyway. Unlike the discography of the Rite, no unknown sonductor here, and this time, Boulez, Dorati, Fricsay and Solti were selected. Movements were heard in all versions before moving on to the following. Confrontation tightens after the 3rd movement.

About the 2nd movement [Giuoco Delle Coppie. Allegretto scherzando (2/4)], the composer: « The key of the second movement consists of a series of five short independent sections, corresponding to the five pairs of solo instruments introduced alternatively (2 bassoons, 2 oboes, . 2 clarinets, 2 flutes and muted trumpets 2) These sections have no common theme and can be designated by the letters a, b, c, d, e. This is followed by a sort of trio -. short choral for brass and snare – following five sections which are included in a more elaborate « instrumentation. At the end of the third movement was retained only the following 6 versions (objectively course!) and gave up Boulez after the 4th.

Kubelík – Royal philharmonic – 1959 Solti – London symphony – 1965 Karajan – Berlin – 1966 Solti – Chicago – 1981 Kubelik – Bavaroise – 1981Boulez – Chicago – 1993

Fricsay – RIAS Berlin – 1957

2: it lacks a bit of life, the trumpets duo is struggling . 7
3: Very nice atmosphere « nocturne », everything is alive, structured. 8

Kubelík – Royal philharmonic – 1958

2: Exactly the same tempo, but the sound is much clearer, the string accompaniment of the 5 duos is more significant, the rest to match; we may hear finer orchestras later on. 8
3: This is at least as well as FF, freer and more dramatic. 8.5
4: The episode after the Shostakovich part is like a healing balm, for me it is obvious. 9
5: This is just amazing… 9.5

Solti – London symphony – 1965

2: The color is darker, for sure there are accents, but a little slower tempo gives everything a little static side, superb choral, excellent instrumentalists; beautiful, just a little cold. 8
3: It’s still cold, overall pace a little corseted. beautiful moments, but everything felt more calculated. 7
4: It is less obvious, a little more slack in the beginning, Chosta episode sounds very Hary Janos … superb finish. 8.5
5: At least as lively as Kub, it is a little less sharp at the beginning, the sound is less natural than Kubelík (why put the tromones apart?] ). It is less energetic and sometimes a little confused,  but it’s still very good. 7.5

Karajan – Berlin – 1966

2: Same  tempo as Solti. The strings are this time in the foreground! Choral Tristanesque, everything is beautiful but you lose a bit of rhythm and « pep. » 7.5
3: Instrumentally it’s magic, but little addictive. 7.5
4: Everything is a little fade, a little narcissistic. 6.5
5: You do not hear much, so it is melted, it does not breathe, it’s a little off topic like an Hungarian Rhapsody. 6

Kubelik – Boston – 1973

2: This is a bit of a mix between the version in London and the Karajan: less alive than the first, less « luxury » than the second. 7.5

Karajan – Berlin – 1974

2: It is very elegant, a little on tiptoe, lack of life, superb orchestra course. 7 Someone pointed out to me that I had missed the Philharmonia version of 1953 is very much alive, I should have selected this one  instead?

Solti – Chicago – 1981

2: Great sound, great orchestra, beautiful as ever, but a bit cold here, a little static. 7.5
3: Very nice color night, virtuoso orchestra, animation, sound splendor, beautiful. 8.5
4 : A little faster than 16 years ago; it is taking moving, less clear, less chiseled. 7
5: Sound lacks of presence is intense, virtuoso, but  does not really captivates, this is curious, despite all the talent made​​, it does not sound …. But the end is remarkable: 8

Kubelik – Bavaroise – 1981

2: Beautiful, distant trumpets, not a Wagnerian choral for a penny, the resumption of the 5 themes is the best understood. 8
3: Sounds unfortunately very pale. It feels like the beginning of a Klimt painting. Kubelík was equally at home in Bartók’s night musics as for Mahler’s… 8
4: It’s great empathy, light, but the sound … 8
5: I will ask my friend Pierre Barbier if there is no way to publish this concert in better conditions for the 100th anniversary of his birth . This is probably the best version, with some approximations due to the live recording, but the sound is very remote and lacks of definition. 8

Dorati – Concertgebouw – 1984

2: It’s fast, removed, a little distant, choral disappointing, not very addictive. 7
3: Very nice sound image, but it is more on the bar, the central passage is a bit confusing, beautiful fine, very blue beard Castle as the entire work elsewhere. 7.5

Fischer Adam – Hungarian State symphony orchestra – 1989

2: Fast, dancing, « Hungarian », phrasing, contrasts, trumpets duo a little distant, beautiful version. 8
3: This is extremely slow! (Andante non troppo yet); we gain in details on the strings, but curiously no atmosphere, it becomes a bit bombastic at times. . 7

Boulez – Chicago – 1993

2: From the snare, we feel that it will not be animated, impeccable orchestra, elegant phrasing, even in the chorale also flawless finish, but it therefore lacks animation. 7.5
3: Fairly slow also, but this time with a very nice layout, a director, orchestra awesome online, sometimes almost overwhelming, we would like a little more breathing, but it is excellent. 8
4: It’s fast, pretty outside, you do not really feel concerned. 7

Blomstedt – San Francisco – 1995

2: This is Allegretto, elegant, decorative, choral without insight, all sorely lacking in characterization. 6.5
3: It still lacks of characterization, hardly supports the interest. 6.5

Fischer Ivan – Budapest Festival Orchestra – 1998

2: From the rhythm of the snare, we feel that it is original, it is fast, sleek, beautiful colors, but it lacks a few accents. 7.5
3: Superb staging at first, slight lack of animation, the passage is a bit high flown, sound a bit whatsoever. 7

Ozawa – Saito Kinen orchestra – 2005

2: Soloists present – and excellent, beautiful phrasing, beautiful string accompaniment, a little more lively, it would have been perfect. 8
3: Iit wilts a bit. 7

Alsop – Baltimore Symphony Orchestra – 2012

2: Snare not very clear, it’s slow (felt), not really engaged, somebeautiful things, but overall it is missed. 6.5
3: A little slow, lack of atmosphere at the start, then it’s confusing and uninteresting.

Conclusion: Kubelík 1958: what else?

More than 300 sleeves LP / CD 

Bartok - Concerto for orchestra

More than 300 sleeves

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